During Twentieth Anniversary, HRI’s Founding Vision Ensured the Rental, Food and Social Services Support Necessary During the Pandemic

December 14, 2020

Contact: Kali Cohn
972-638-7438 | kcohn@hrionline.org

During Twentieth Anniversary, HRI’s Founding Vision Ensured the Rental, Food and Social Services Support Necessary During the Pandemic 

DALLAS – This December, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to ravage the country, Human Rights Initiative of North Texas celebrates its twentieth birthday and the founding vision that primed the organization to distribute close to $250,000 of direct rental payments, utility payments and emergency funds since the public health crisis began. 

“On this twentieth anniversary, we remain inspired by our over 600 clients from countries all over the world,” said Bill Holston, HRI’s Executive Director. “They are navigating the challenges of the pandemic and economic crisis with strength, grace and fortitude. We’re honored to help them weather this storm.”

Many people know HRI as a nonprofit law firm serving immigrants fleeing human rights abuses. But two decades ago, its founders had a more holistic vision. Because people navigating the immigration process had needs beyond their immigration cases, social services support was also essential.  

“This year has shown the importance of baking social services into our fabric from the very beginning,” said Elisandra De La Cruz, HRI’s Social Services Director. “Many of our clients are on the front-lines of this economic and health crisis. Our model allowed us to quickly scale up and provide an unprecedented amount of direct aid to our clients.” 

Through funds from the City of Dallas, Texas Women’s Foundation, North Texas Cares, and generous donors in the community, HRI’s social services team has distributed nearly $250,000 in direct aid. The team has also distributed hundreds of grocery cards and bags of toiletries, thanks to donations from religious and community partners throughout the region. HRI is also able to arrange grocery delivery and other assistance for clients in quarantine with COVID-19.  

HRI is—and always has been—a volunteer-powered operation. As HRI co-founder Betsy Healy reflected in 2005 to the Texas Lawyer, “We have some of the best lawyers in the state do this for us in their free time. That’s a big piece of the puzzle.” Last fiscal year, HRI worked with over 300 pro bono attorneys on its cases. The other piece of the puzzle is the non-legal volunteers, who do everything from translation and interpretation to toiletry and food drives in order to support HRI clients.  

“Over the past ten years, we’ve scaled up our capacity to provide social services to our clients,” said Holston. “My staff recently reminded me that, back in 2012, I talked to Dallas Morning News about how the backlog of immigration cases was creating an increased demand for social services. Our team has worked hard to build relationships with generous folks in the community who wanted to support our clients’ basic needs. Those folks have really come through for our clients during this difficult time.” 

HRI is celebrating the inspiring clients, staff, and volunteers that built the organization and made its work possible through 12 Days of Human Rights on Facebook and Instagram. The celebration coincides with the annual observance of Human Rights Day on December 10.  


About Human Rights Initiative of North Texas 

For the past 20 years, Human Rights Initiative of North Texas has provided legal and critical social services for immigrant survivors of human rights abuses from all over the world. For more information, visit www.hrionline.org.



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