While much of the media attention has focused on New Orleans, communities on
the Mississippi Gulf Coast such as Bay St. Louis, Waveland, and Pass Christian
were equally impacted. In fact, many of these communities were wiped off of the
map entirely. Entire neighborhoods have been reduced to sticks and foundations.
Members of this congregation describe turning down streets to check on a friend
and finding nothing but rubble or going to a store and finding it gone. Their
entire reality has shifted. One member described feeling like she was far away
from home because nothing she sees is familiar to her anymore.
Martha and I hope to offer them some support over the next couple of weeks.
And although it will be a long time before life returns to any semblance of
normal, we hope to be able to offer them a listening ear and a helping hand.
People are now leaving the shelter every day. Most are going to FEMA trailer
parks, some have moved in with families, and some are returning to their homes
in the hopes of finding something there. Fears of what Hurricane Rita will bring
are keeping some people from moving anywhere. They don't want to have to be
evacuated again. At this point, the shelter is scheduled to close by Tuesday but
the Red Cross is uncertain about naming an exact closing date until they know
what resources have to mobilized to handle Rita. They are stretched so thin that
it is increasingly difficult to respond to all the needs.
The two FEMA trailer parks close to Hattiesburg are both rural settings quite
a distance from any large cities. I hope to visit the parks this weekend to
assess for myself if what I'm hearing about the lack of food and support is
true. People who were not on food stamps before the storm are eligible for
short-term emergency food stamps but many don't know that. Getting the word out
about available resources and how to access them continues to be a major
I'll write more about the trailer parks later because I think UU
congregations might be able to help with long-term support for these displaced
families. The folks in the trailer parks have up to 18 months before they will
be forced to move again – so anything we do would require a long-term
commitment. Donating money is a short-term aid but not a long-term solution. I
encourage you all to begin thinking about how your congregations might help
these families with the tools they need to break out the cycle of poverty. As I
learn more about the needs, I'll pass it on.
In faith, Annette Marquis
For more information contact web @ uua.org.
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Last updated on Thursday, August 2, 2012.
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