Tuesday, September 20, 2005

A little good news

I hadn't seen this before, and probably it updates regularly. NPR reports yesterday indicated about 400,000 evacuees have been relocated to Texas via shelters in the largest cities: Houston, Dallas, Austin, and San Antonio. The numbers for Houston are interesting:

At it's peak, the 'Dome, Reliant Arena, Reliant Center, and the George R. Brown Convention Center, held 27,100 people. The 'Dome and the Center are now empty, and there are just over 1100 people in the other two locations. FEMA has announced plans to empty those by the end of the week, if possible. When the relocation was first announced, the Deacon at our church who was coordinating our congregation's efforts said the expectation was people would be housed there for several months. The rapidity with which they have been moved out is amazing and, frankly, owes nothing to FEMA. In fact, costs that have not been borne by private charities (all the food was paid for by religious organizations) have been borne, at least in Houston, by the city and county governments. They are waiting for FEMA's check, but it may be in the mail for quite some time.

But the most encouraging number, was the number of volunteers: 59,679. You have to realize, Houston is a city of immigrants and migrants. Many people come here as employees of international corporations, especially oil companies, or in a role ancillary to oil interests. But the day I went for volunteer training, 30,000 people had arrived over two days to get trained. We can keep a sharp eye on the politics of this, while remaining guileless as sheep among wolves; but it is good to see there are silver linings in these clouds, and that not everyone reacts like Gretna, Louisiana.

AN UPDATE: With Rita apparently taking aim on the upper Texas Gulf Coast (still too early to be sure), the people in Reliant Center are being removed to Fort Chaffee, Arkansas. There is much confusion on this point; the local Pacifica reporter related that most of the people still in the center are given little or no information, and told basically "Get on the bus or get on the street." The impetus is that the building will not withstand a Category 3 hurricane, and the roof of the Astrodome is glass; so there is no large shelter in the area, and no time left to relocate people to smaller local shelters or move them into more permanent housing.

The beat goes on, in other words; although the number of people is down again, to around 900, per the same radio reports. At this point, nothing much to do but pray for them, and consider what a mess this forced relocation is making of families and communities across southern Louisiana and Mississippi. We are too prone to lose sight of the fact that people without means or money, are still people.

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