The one year anniversary of Katrina has reminded me where I was last year. I was in such pain with Shingles I had wished for death. We even had our last home visit while I was high on pain medication. My worker is so great and my husband handled it very well. I threw up and slept on the couch throughout their conversation. Not a pretty picture, I know. How did we ever get approved?
I was so moved by the scenes I saw on TV as I laid there for days that I knew I had to do something. I decided to contact local hotels one night around 3 AM (I couldn't sleep and knew the night auditors would be bored and love to talk to someone). I found out that alot of hotels were filled up with folks unable to pay their rent and were being kicked out of some of them in the morning. I got busy and it took my mind off off the pain. I made flyers up with my name and the number of my second line to put at the front desks and waited. The phone started ringing and did not stop for weeks. I did not sleep for more than a few minutes at a time at my desk. Someone started making copies of my flyers and handed them out at the shelters here.
I gathered information online and the news and served as a go between for folks and their hotels. After they had their rooms paid for I began looking at local apartments for longer term housing. I got therapists and nurses to see them in the hotels for free. I found people really wanted to help so I found out what they had to donate (time, clothes, room, car, toiletries, or food) and matched them up with a family in need. I contacted local churches to match up families with a support system in the coming months and spiritual needs.
I started getting calls from huge organizations (NAACP was one that I worked very closely with) and churches wanting information. I kept trying to explain what I knew and no one believed I was a one woman volunteer. I had previously worked in the apartment and hotel industry so I had known where to look and what to ask to help get things moving for people and that is how I was able to know more than most people in the day to day operations of these businesses.
Overall I was able to place over 300 families in those weeks after the hurricane. I was so tired but I felt so proud that I actually did something. I worried about the next few months and year after and decided to put together a support group for them with a friend that is a psychologist. We noticed immediately these folks were struggling with parenting in a new culture and under so much stress so we started parenting and life skills training as well. We started meeting every week and still meet monthly now. It is great to watch them grow and change. Some have moved back, others are barely making it, but some are doing better than they were before the hurricane. I love these people and they have become a huge part of my life, I know they are traumatized by the hurricane but I am glad I have had the pleasure of getting to know them.