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..."
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