September 01, 2005
As long as it takes

Before we get started, Jim Thompson asks:

Does anybody out there know of places that are matching donations to hurricane relief funds? For example, 37signals was matching donations up to $5000, but they hit their limit before I could forward a copy of my Red Cross donation. Perhaps there are other organizations out there with deeper pockets than 37signals that are also matching donations; if so, I could make my little donation count double, triple, or even more.

He answers his own question by noting that donations made to the Red Cross during tonight's Texans game (until 11 PM) will be matched, up to $1 million. Other options surely do exist, and be sure to check with your employer (I need to find the form that my employer requires for a match). And here's another possibility that's worth your time to consider (via Julia).

There's going to be a lot of blame thrown around for this, not just for why the levees didn't work as effectively as they could have but also for why the relief efforts so far seem to be substandard at best. Here's a scenario to consider: Suppose New Orleans had been hit instead by a dirty bomb, planted by a terrorist. We'd have a similar situation - hundreds if not thousands dead, a city of a half-million people needing to be evacuated and left empty for at least a month if not much longer, and so forth. Heck, let's even speculate that we had a few days' warning of the event so that people could have been told to get out before it happened.

You would think, four years after 9/11 and with all the supposed focus on terrorism and national security, that there'd be some contingency plans somewhere that could be drawn upon to facilitate things, from the evacuation to refugee settlement and so on. If that were the case, then surely such plans would be useful here. Do you see any evidence of a plan like that in action? If not, why not? How is it we're that unprepared? And note, this isn't just a federal issue. Every major city, and every state that has a major city, should have some idea of what to do and some way of carrying it out. I'm not encouraged by what I'm seeing. (And I see I'm not the only one thinking along these lines.)

Regarding looting, Atrios has already said all that needs to be said about the difference between "looting" and "finding bread and soda from a local grocery store". If Thomas Aquinas says "It is not theft, properly speaking, to take secretly and use another's property in a case of extreme need: because that which he takes for the support of his life becomes his own property by reason of that need," that's good enough for me.

How long will there be refugees in the Astrodome? Harris County Judge Robert Eckels is thinking "in terms of days, maybe weeks".

County Judge Robert Eckels, however, said officials are not expecting to house refugees in the stadium very long.

"I'm thinking in terms of days, maybe weeks," he said. "The dome is not suited well for this kind of a crowd for a long term. When you get 20,000 or 30,000 people in a single place, you have problems with privacy."

I think he's being unrealistic. How long will it take for New Orleans to be mostly habitable again? What will these people have to go back to when it is? I'm sure he's right about the Dome not being suitable for the long term. But what are the other options?

The Chronicle, by the way, now has a Dome Blog to report on what's happening in there. Here's a dispatch which gives you an idea.

Finally, I couldn't agree more with this.

I'll be dropping off some stuff at the Houston Food Bank tomorrow. If you're planning to give to them, here's a list of items they're seeking.

UPDATE: Metroblogging Houston has a report with photos from the Dome.

UPDATE: San Antonio will be taking in refugees as well, to be housed at the former Kelly Air Force Base. The San Antonio Food Bank will need your help as well. Via The Jeffersonian.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on September 01, 2005 to Hurricane Katrina | TrackBack

Nobody is going back to NOLA for a long time, but they will be going many other places besides the dome.

For example, the guv and the FEMA today have moved to make federal housing units and federal housing vouchers available to the refugees.

Part of the ongoing project at the dome is to process the evacuees through such programs as the housing vouchers, and get them back into some semblance of a normal life outside the shelter, that is what Eckels is talking about.

Many for instance will want to leave right away, as soon as they have made arrangements with family or friends in other parts of Texas or La etc. They will be eligible for travel expenses or will be able to take advantage of donated travel accomodations to get there.

Others will sign up for housing vouchers, jobs and so on.

This is one of the reasons we were not needed as volunteers at the dome, the HCCC and other groups have teams of trained volunteers at the dome who are trying to match the people up with the available options.

Posted by: ttyler5 on September 2, 2005 4:03 AM

The Westchase Business District is having a relief drive today from 11 to 2. They're looking for the usual stuff: "Current short term needs include: Poptarts, cereal bars, peanut butter, jelly, 1 lb. packages of lunch meat, canned meats, spaghetti, chili, stew (anything that can be warmed in a microwave), canned fruits, cereal, and crackers. Snacks for children are also welcome."

Donations are being taken at West Houston Assistance Ministries, located at the corner of Meadowglen and Rogerdale (one block east of the Beltway, just south of Westheimer). A typical busy day has 30 families and 60 individuals seeking assistance from WHAM; one day this week, they had 271 individuals and 77 families.

If you can't make it there between 11 and 2 or want to volunteer, you can contact WHAM: call Louise (713-977-5522) or Virginia (281-974-6064).

Posted by: Sue on September 2, 2005 8:15 AM