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September 15, 2005

Reporting out on Katrina

Here in my little corner of middle-America, we've taken in 20-some families and a total of 70-or-so people displaced by Hurricane Katrina. We've got extended families, couples, and singles, including a gentleman who was evac'd by plane to Houston, told there was no room, flown to Phoenix, told there was no room, flown to Kansas City, told there was no room, and sent on to Leavenworth in a van. He is 78 years old. A veteran of the Merchant Marine, he allowed as he had never traveled so far in 48 hours in his life. And that he wouldn't mind if he never did so again. Nonetheless, he's got a great attitude, and immediately settled in and started trying to find his family, scattered throughout the country.

We have a father who has children on the east and west coasts, neither of whome are with his ex-wife (their mother)... and no one knows why. Fortunately, both children ended up with relatives, and Mom will home on one, and Dad on another. No, I have no idea how that happened, except that obviously, these being among our first arrivals, the system was a little rough around the edges.

We were told we weren't going to receive any evacuees, and then of course, they showed up. The team of public and private agencies, allied with big-hearted people and churches just went into execute mode and got them all in housing, got them food, vouchers for clothing etc. The kids are in school, and four people already have jobs.

And most are chafing to get home. There's been some demand on our counseling services, and there are a surprising number of families that got broken up, but that's being remedied fairly quickly.

A lot of our pantry stocks have been depleted and people and businesses have been stepping in to restock and in some cases, take on sponsorship. We've got churches stepping in to sponsor whole families, for months.

On the flip side, we're encouraging people to get hooked into the community, get integrated, and not sit isolated and brooding in their apartments, motels, and homes - it's important that these people become as self-supporting as they can - for them, not just to ease the strain on supporting services.

Our local agencies are spending funds with little to no expectation of getting reimbursed by the Big Guys, like the Red Cross, etc, who have been the focus of fund-raising efforts. Not because we're being stiffed - but because, in the end, they will end up with the long term bills, and because they are going to get hit with the costs of maintaining any long-term facilities that get established for the true hard-luck cases. My point here is to remind you that it is *important* that if you are a charitable giving type - to not neglect your local charities who have probably already punched large holes in their budgets.

Thus far, we've done well, and had no incidents, which is frankly unusual, considering we are getting a traumatized population, some of whom's lives have literally been changed forever by the hurricane.

Which brings me to my third point. #1 was you've probably got people in your community and may not know it. #2 was your local agencies have been handling expenses above what was budgeted... keep that in mind, and help if you can. Volunteering time is helping, btw... #3 - We know that in the evacuee population there are, essentially, escaped prisoners and other predators.

We're putting these people (we've so far been able to limit "in-home" adoption to families) in people's homes, who have volunteered their homes in this time of crisis.

And the ACLU, which I don't detest *quite* as much as Jay does... is all about grumbling that if you are going to accept people into your home - that the people you are letting in don't have to answer any potentially embarrassing questions.

But, perhaps, if the ACLU really thinks the government should be doing this exclusively, they are being fully consistent.

The ACLU would be better served asking why local and state government was so unprepared to help the helpless.

John | Permalink | Comments (3) | Hurricane Katrina
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