Thursday, September 01, 2005

Katrina refugees -- How to help

Now that the extent of the damage from Katrina is becoming clearer, the whole of the Deep South is dealing with a massive homelessness problem. Given the severity of the problem, most of the social institutions that usually handle tragedy are themselves destroyed. For example, if a local family lost their house to a fire, the local churches would move into action to provide shelter, clothing and food. What happens when all of the local families have lost their houses, the church buildings themselves are swept away, and the Church is scattered across the country?

If you are far away, the best thing you can probably do to help is to collect money for relief agencies. If you are here in the South, though, you are probably going to have to get your hands on the problem itself.

First, a caveat -- I am NOT advocating driving down to the coast to help rescue workers. You can contact them with offers of help, but unless they recruit you, stay out of the way. You can probably help more in your local community anyway.

Now that communities not directly affected by the hurricane are realizing the extent of the problem, people are starting to move into action. Last night I spoke with one of the elders of my congregation in Montgomery, and he told me that they were having a meeting that night to organize. This morning I spoke with Cameron Martindale, one Troy University's Senior Vice Chancellors, and she told me that Chancellor Jack Hawkins had called an emergency meeting later this morning to determine a course of action for dealing with our students who find themselves homeless (I've got at least one in my classes), as well as refugee academics who gravitated toward Troy when they lost their homes.

In any case, I'm expecting updates from both Cornerstone Christian Church and Troy University later today on exactly what we are doing. I'll try to keep the blog updated on these things when there are opportunities for local residents to help. If you live anywhere near Troy or Montgomery and are interested in helping these refugees, please check back here regularly.

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