Friday, September 05, 2008

Shelter duty

I worked a shelter, yesterday. Evacuees from parishes in south Louisiana fleeing hurricane Gustav. When I got there yesterday morning there were about five hundred souls. Men, women, children, the human condition in all its glory.

They were ready to go home. They were thankful for shelter, they were glad to be safe, but the storm had been three days gone, and they were ready to be home. There was a tension in the air that was almost palpable.

The shelter was run by the American Red Cross. Volunteers from all over the country were stationed at our little shelter. I talked to volunteers from Pennsylvania, Indiana, Ohio, Maine, Washington, Nevada, and other states I'm sure I can't remember. They were great, working hard, serving the people.

But the people wanted to go home. So I started asking, getting the Red Cross volunteers to educate me. What I learned is that the Red Cross provides shelter, but they don't control the buses. They provide food, shelter, basic necessities but they have no control over the buses.

Local officials control the buses. Lets say that Chinquapin parish is under threat of a storm and an evacuation is ordered. The buses roll and the people from Chinquapin go to Xavier parish. Three or four days later, the storm is over, the people are ready to go home, but Chinquapin isn't yet ready to recieve them. The folks from Chinquapin who are waiting for the bus have to wait until the Chinquapin officials call for the buses.

Even if Xavier parish got hammered worse than Chinquapin parish, the people from Chinquapin can't go home until their officials call for them.

That's the way it was explained to me by the Red Cross workers. Knowing what I know now, it's a poor system. The great flaw is that the officials who evacuate their people get the say on when those people come home.


Anonymous said...

Pawpaw, that doesn't make sense. Your "great flaw" should be a great advantage. The agency that sent the people away should be the agency with the best knowledge of when to send them back.

Pawpaw said...

Naw, J. The system only makes sense if you believe that elected officials should be able to tell people when they can go home. Better that the people decide when they can go home.

Taken to the extreme, an elected official could have his people moved during a natural disaster, then decide that he didn't want them at all. Just leave them where they are.

The thing is, this system affects only the poorest of our citizens. The ones that depend on transportation provided by someone else. Citizens with cars, even the poorest citizens with cars, are able to return home whenever they decide to return.

On a positive note, I'm glad to see that you're online. Most of Grand Parish and a goodly majority of Rapides parish were without power this morning. Lots of crews are out working hard to restore basic services and we should give them our thanks.

Anonymous said...

I've been online throughout via batteries in a laptop . . . on dialup. When the battery got low, I'd drive around town and charge it through the cigarette lighter.

I should have been online with my big computer and DSL, but the deep cycle battery I kept charged for just such events had operator trouble--somebody forgot to keep the water chambers full. . . .