Past Treasure of the Month – June 2015
During the month of June, Rosenberg Library celebrated the legacy of Alfreda Houston, community leader and activist best known for her work as Executive Director of St. Vincent’s House in Galveston. The Library exhibited an assortment of awards given to Ms. Houston in recognition of her service to the area’s underserved and disadvantaged population. This collection, along with her personal papers, was donated to the Library by Ms. Houston before her death in 2006.
Alfreda Houston was born in Galveston on July 11, 1940. She graduated from Central High School and later received a degree in Social Work from Louisiana State University. While a high school student in the 1950s, Houston first began working for St. Vincent’s House. Established in 1954, St. Vincent’s House started out as a small outreach ministry of St. Augustine of Hippo Episcopal Church, a historically African American congregation located at 41st Street and M ½ in Galveston. St. Vincent’s House was a community center located north of Broadway and west of 25th Street, a neighborhood in which residents faced numerous challenges including high rates of poverty and lack of basic health services.
Alfreda Houston grew up near this area, and continued to live there as she raised her family of eight children in the Palm Terrace public housing complex. She was employed as a social worker at the Early Childhood Learning Center and also worked at Maggie’s Restaurant in order to support her household. In 1975, she became the Executive Director of St. Vincent’s House and worked to provide affordable, high-quality child care, health services, and emergency assistance to underserved residents. She remained in this position for more than two decades, finally retiring in 1999.
In addition to her responsibilities at St. Vincent’s House, Ms. Houston served on numerous boards and committees, including the Palm Terrace Tenant Council, Galveston Housing Authority, Clean Galveston, Parks and Recreation, and Galveston Partnership for Better Living. She was also involved with the Galveston Race Relations Committee and the annual Juneteenth celebrations.
Alfreda Houston’s long and distinguished record of service was recognized by many organizations over the years. Awards bestowed upon her included the Zeta Psi Beta Sorority Award for Distinguished Achievement, the Delta Sigma Theta Award for Outstanding Community Service, and the NAACP Juneteenth Image Award. She was inducted into the Galveston Women’s Hall of Fame in 1984 and was the first recipient of Galveston Historical Foundation’s Steel Oleander Award. Galveston Daily News named Alfreda Houston its Citizen of the Year in 1997.
The Alfreda Houston Community Service Award (Houston’s Heroes Award) was established in 2004 as a tribute to its namesake’s legacy as a passionate and tireless advocate for Galveston’s most vulnerable residents. The award is presented annually at the St. Vincent’s Day celebration in September. This event commemorates St. Vincent de Paul, the patron saint of the homeless, hungry, and those living in poverty.
The three-block stretch of Postoffice Street from 27th to 30th was renamed Alfreda Houston Place on September 19, 2009 during the 40th Anniversary celebration for St. Vincent’s Clinic at 2817 Postoffice.