Saturday, September 10, 2005

The Status as of Today

I spent the day going from shelter to shelter in my parish and the West Baton Rouge Parish. I talked to the people in charge of those shelters, and for the most part, they have everything that they need. My Church has now received two diesel truck loads of supplies, including a large amount of prescription medication. We do not need anymore "stuff" at the present time.

I still have a few worries.

One worry is that some of these folks have no transportation. Some have jobs waiting in Baton Rouge, but they have no means to commute to them every day. Also, some of the more rural shelters, such as Addis, are less crowded but it will take FEMA and other organizations longer to find them.

My second worry is even worse. Some of these evacuees come from government housing, where they have been living off of government checks. As the days wear on, I am becoming more and more concerned that some are just waiting for the government to rebuild some projects for them to move back into. That way they can get their check sent to them. That is, of course, a government check.

This point was really driven home today as I talked with people in the shelters. I think the only word I heard today was "FEMA, FEMA, FEMA, FEMA..." It was like a mantra. To make matters worse, a lot of the evacuess saw that people in Houston got $2,000 debit cards to go and buy stuff. They did not get that here. You can imagine that this situation did not help things at all.

Let me clarify this by saying that this concern of mine does not come only from fatigue. It has been a concern since the beginning. But I also know that helping out at the shelters will wear on you, so I am trying to be careful with my thoughts. I would ask for you to pray for me and my Church in the coming weeks about this. Many of the peole we serve here are grateful, and they want to get back on their feet. But there is a number of people who are, shall we say, ungrateful. They complain about everything. These are the ones who refuse to clean up after themselves, go look at the job boards, or basically contribute anything helpful to the situation. I confess that I do not deal with this very well.

I met with a group of ministers and governmental officials today as well. We were supposed to talk with the governor, but she had to do something else. (I told my wife that I'd give her $5 if the governor actually showed up.) We were brainstorming about how we could now best help people since the urgent need of food and shelter is now worked out. Here is what I said:

"If I were in there with my family, and we now had shelter and food and the basic necessities. These are the two things that I would be worried about:

1. Getting a job.
2. Getting a job."

I told them that those two priorities were not necessarily listed in order of importance.

I think that for those who are willing to make a start, we need to come up with some way to get them legitimate job offers to match the skills that they have. I believe that the government can do a great service in this area. There are a few things that I believe the government could handle doing better than another organization:

1. Find legitimate jobs and list them via internet. That way, people could look them up, and printouts could be put up in shelters.

2. When a person finds a match, the government could help with transportation. By this I mean they could help folks get out of state if need be.

I'm just thinking here. But I know that people have to have jobs, and they have to have a way to get to them. At least, that's how I perceive the way things should be. Instead, I heard, "FEMA..." But what I wanted to hear was, "Job..."


Dr 4LOM said...

I think it's a bit ridiculous that they made such a hype over those debit cards, I knew it would cause problems.
Just a liberal note: They've now changed them to checks so that it has to be cashed(with fees) by an institution when many of these folks don't have a normal bank.
Even still, the money isn't for everyone nor is it being distributed to everyone(even those that qualify). Even after filling out FEMA's paperwork, they gave us nothing. We don't know if we'l get anything at all for the two cars we lost as well as everything else in our house that was destroyed(and I'm not whining, we're better off than most in that situation). I hate to get back on the wagon of saying that our government is handling this poorly, but it's handling this pretty badly. First they announce this overwhelming amount of funds(imagine those folks getting less than that a month via government check hearing the news) and then they don't disclose how to obtain one and already the internet is awash with sites that show you how to fraudulantly recieve one by faking your address. It's just one more step to letting people down.
On the job note, which you're right should be a big first priority(that's what I'm trying to do). The internet option is actually a pretty good one in my opinion. Many places around the country have openings in odd places because of and even for Katrina victims. There is some trouble with the fact that many of these jobs are actually not in Louisianna, but that too could be settled somehow. They're in temporary shelter already right?

As for the transportation though, that's going to be a bigger problem. Getting and finding jobs? Internet. Getting a way to that job? There isn't one. There's no way the government has the means or the organization to get these folks to a new place except perhaps offering vouchers for airline or bus tickets. These avenues would only be available if the job is obtainable online, which is not so likely. Even a job working in a warehouse is going to require some sort of interview process and what happens when that person moves their family to another state only to find themselves out of work weeks later because it was a bad match for them?
If there is a type of organization that could handle this though, I'd look to temp agencies. Many companies are national so they have resources around the world. Often they can act as liason in the interview process so the candidates can go somewhere close to give the agency an interview and the position can be filled without direct contact with the employer. Working on several contract and temp jobs myself, it's usually pretty obvious from the first day whether or not the job will work out for you, so the companies could sponser travel expenses(via some sort of government write off perhaps) and if after a day or two things are working out, they can move there families with them. Families with less people(i.e. one parent a few children) can bring the children on the first day instead of taking them later. I don't know, those are my thoughts.

Sojourner said...


I have to agree about the $2,000 voucher thing. The moment I heard about it I thought these two things:

1. Wow, that is a staggering amount of money considering up to a million people are homeless right now. (You do the math.)

2. How in the world will they get that many debit cards to all those people? Isn't that a bit dangerous?

If you are counting, that's probably three things, but I don't care.;)

As far as the job/transportation discussion goes, I think that the internet is an excellent tool, especially if people will relocate.

Transportation is another issue, and I am not sure how that is going to work out. The only thing that I can think of is if they hire massive amounts of people to do jobs in a similar area. Clean-up in New Orleans comes to mind. said...

Here's my contribution to the job situation:

We have positions for people who have Dairy Cattle or Livestock handling experience working on Dairy Farms. I have Cow Milker and Tractor Driver positions open at this time.

We are located in a small farming community with many dairy farms in the area. We are 10 minutes from Stephenville Tx a regional center and 1 1/2 hour from Ft Worth. We have a large and supportive spanish speaking community.

Leeann Moos