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September 08, 2005

Helping out with Katrina's aftermath.

You've given money, perhaps food and clothing (more of that stuff will be needed later, too). You are thinking you'd like to go help out down there, but you just can't. After all, you have kids, a job, all of that.

And you are right.

But, you don't *have* to go down there. Chances are, especially if you are in a larger metropolitan area, you can help - just as effectively - Right Where You Live.

I sit on the board of a large regional charity in the Kansas City area. Here is what I'm talking about... Right Here In KC - and it's true in your city, too.

Just attended a gathering of social service providers, including the City of Kansas City, FEMA, and many United Way member agencies including Catholic Charities, at the KCMO United Way offices concerning help for Evacuees. The following points seem to reflect the consensus:

Every Evacuee should register with FEMA, preferably on line-

Or call FEMA 1 800-621-FEMA (3362)

If in the Kansas City region, Evacuees should also register with the American Red Cross, 816 931 6662 x 7030 or register in person with the Red Cross at the Gregg Center at 1600 E 17th Terr KCMO

Red Cross will give vouchers for 10 days of hotel lodging.

FEMA will provide vouchers for 3 months of rent.

The city of Kansas City is working to accumulate Section 8 qualified housing. Vouchers from the Gulf Coast will be honored in the Kansas City region.

People impacted by the hurricane are reluctant to leave to come to new communities like Kansas City or St. Louis. Numbers are unclear but about "375 cases" locally have registered so far with the Red Cross, about "300 families." Some families are not in the numbers who have been accommodated by extended family, Churches and others.

To Volunteer, call
Catholic Charities (913)621-5255 x 167,
Red Cross (816) 931-6662 x 7030
Heart of America United Way (816) 474-5112

To enroll property you own in the database of local housing stock, register on line at

The Gregg Center needs greeters, gift baskets, health workers, drivers to help families get to hotels and to do shopping, Case Managers and other Volunteers.

It is too early to start receiving other donations of in-kind goods, at least locally. Eventually, food, clothing and furniture will be needed, along with employment.

Catholic Charities will help sort housing opportunities for Evacuees, but at present there are not many opportunities for home-sharing. At least 500 families in the Archdiocese are willing to share their homes as needs arise.

Catholic Charities will also provide Counseling, Nursing, Case Management, Food and clothing and furniture from TurnStyles.

Some Evacuees will have multiple needs beyond housing and employment. Home sharing will not be an appropriate alternative for some Evacuees who have additional needs.

The process could take 18 months.

Eventually families will need sponsorship in individual apartments after the FEMA funds expire, and help with utilities, jobs, transportation.

Catholic Charities, both Missouri and Kansas working together, will continue to assess local needs on a daily basis.

Please call me with questions and ideas and pass this email along.

Mark Henke
Catholic Charities, Catholic Community Services
2220 Central Ave
Kansas City KS 66102-4797

Regardless of your religious affiliation (I'm not Catholic, btw - and it doesn't matter, because Catholic Charities delivers service based on need alone) if you live in the KC area and blog - link to, or swipe the contents of this post and spread the word, please?

If you don't live in the KC area... this is also happening in your area. And as the evacuees arrive throughout the country, this scene is repeating itself over and over. And you can have a direct, material impact, and still go to work, and sleep in your own bed at night, take care of your children, and pay your bills.

At the same time - consider this - the needs that existed in your communities *before* Katrina hit, are just as valid now - which means that if you are able (and local volunteering is a way to do this) we need to go *beyond* our normal bounds, not just displace from one area to another. And if your budget has surrendered what it can... you can still give *time*.

Just like these bloggers do.