Needs for Katrina evacuees being met

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 17, 2005

The word went out a week ago: Katrina evacuees would soon need more permanent housing.

Since then, the response has been "unreal," DHR volunteer Sara Jane Atkins said Thursday.

"We have had an outpouring of people from not only our area, but from all over the country – New York, California, Texas, even up in Canada – offering to open their homes to evacuees," Atkins explained.

"People have even offered to send money to cover the evacuees' expenses in getting there."

The problem is many evacuees currently living in area hotels "really don't want to move into other people's homes."

Donated trailers and campers, along with some empty houses offered by owners, are helping bridge the housing gap.

As for furniture, appliances and other household items, "donations have really been coming in," Atkins said.

She said there is a list in place at DHR of local citizens willing to "adopt" an evacuee family.

"So many people locally have reached out to help and the vast majority of evacuees have been so appreciative. You can really see the Lord's hand in everything we do," Atkins said.

Father Fred Lindstrom, president of the Greenville Area Ministerial Association, said discussions are ongoing with Lomax-Hannon College in Greenville to use some of their refurbished dormitory spaces as long-term shelters for future disaster survivors.

"That's been one of our biggest problems here in Greenville. We haven't been set up to house anyone on a long-term basis," Lindstrom said.

For those Katrina survivors seeking kitchen items, cleaning supplies and other household needs, the hurricane relief distribution center located at the King's building (formerly the Wickes warehouse) continues operations from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily through Sept. 23.

"We are seeing some repeats now, as people move into houses here and have new needs. Some are also heading back to the coast to clean up," volunteer Karen Jones said.

"A group of ladies from Mississippi have their electricity back on and can get back to their homes now. So, these ladies needed cleaning supplies," Jones explained.

Sometimes, those displaced by the storm simply need someone to talk to, the volunteer said.

"When you are going through something like this, you need to talk it out, to have someone listen to you. That's part of what we are here for," Jones said.

On Friday, the volunteers opened a prayer room in the back of the warehouse to give evacuees "a quiet place to come and sit, pray and perhaps cry on someone's shoulder," volunteers said.

"In spite of how terrible this has been, a lot of good things are coming out of it," Jones said.

To contact DHR and offer assistance, call 382-4400. To contact the relief distribution center to learn about current survivor needs, call 371-0790.