Craziness still ensues down here in Houston.
The Cliffnotes version of the past 3 days:
1) Going to work on Labor Day only to find out I DID have the day off (they just failed to tell me of the change)
2) My car had to go into the shop because it wouldn't start
3) An unexpected day off due to #2
4) We CAN move back into the theatre, but our schedule for this week and next week are a little wonky
5) What started as a FEMA trainer session (to assist victims in the enrollment process) resulted into a seat on an emergency relief committee
All of this in the past 72 hours. Whew! So much has happened, I can't even remember what day it is.
Ok, I have to rant before I explain the 5 points listed above.
I think the federal government's (particularly FEMA) response to Katrina is SHAMEFUL & APPALLING! As of Labor Day, FEMA had yet to establish a central point of operation here in Houston. The fact that Texas is currently hosting about 1/4 million evacuees is not news to anyone. We've been playing host since before Katrina made landfall. Houston the closest large city to New Orleans and a stop on one of their evacuation routes. This should not be a surprise to FEMA. It is now about 1 1/2 weeks since the hurricane and we're still waiting for FEMA to do more than just show their face. While the federal government is still scrambling, the bulk of the work (at least down here) has been done by the city and private organizations. Red Cross is taking care of the Reliant Complex while the George R. Brown is being run by CenterPoint Energy. Yes, you read that right, CenterPoint Energy.
I know that all of the media focus is on the small city now dubbed Reliant City, but very little focus on the other evacuees that are not being housed at Reliant or G.R. Brown. Boat People SOS, a non-profit organization that provides assistance to the Vietnamese community, has been working with (at last count) about 8,000+ Vietnamese evacuees. They are SWAMPED! I just got a call from them today looking for volunteers to help them with the FEMA enrollments. The Filipino community has identified about 120 Filipino evacuees. I've talked to a few of them, making sure they are aware of the FEMA enrollment and trying to identify their needs. It's absolutely heartbreaking! I didn't think I'd make it through my first phone call. One gentleman I talked to is being housed by his son's girlfriend. One of his neighbors just went back to their parish (it's one of the few that's accessible from 6a - 6p) to check on their house and gather some belongings. His neighbor was shot & killed as he was leaving the neighborhood. His son is in Iraq (due to come home within the next 2 weeks) and his family (his mother, 3 sisters and about 14 other relatives) are spread out from Houston to Pensacola. This is a family of about 20 who, until the evacuations, lived in the same neighborhood in New Orleans for about 30 years. His 3 sisters & mother are here in town, but are spread out over Houston & Pearland. I talked to one of his sisters and she doesn't know where she'll be in the next 24 hours since they just ran out of money for their hotel room. Most of the people I talked to didn't need low-interest loans to rebuild their homes (the only thing FEMA could offer them at this point), they need immediate funds to get them through the next few weeks. For housing. For food. For clothing. For daily necessities we take for granted.
On the more positive side, I just came from a pan-Asian community meeting with Mayor Bill White and it was heartening to see how the Asian community here has responded. Hong Kong City Mall has generously opened up their space as a gathering point for the Asian evacuees, the local hotel association (many of their members are Asian) has donated a number of hotel rooms for reduced rates or for free, BPSOS has been working overtime to feed and find housing for the Vietnamese evacuees, FACOST has doled out about $8000 (in hard cash) to the Filipino evacuees, the list goes on. Kudos to the residents of Houston! We're working hard to help our neighbors and their immediate needs and we're trying to help them prepare for their longer-term needs, but we need the federal government to get off their butts and kick into action! They can't allow the generous citizens to become disgruntled due to the overtaxing of energy and resources while we all wait for the government to do something!
Here, read this and talk amongst yourselves:
Shameful, appalling and inexcusable!