September 10, 2005
Katrina Speaks Vietnamese, Too

Well, for better or worse, Kuff has left the keys to the massive "Off the Kuff" mansion while he's otherwise preoccupied. So in the spirit of the blog, I'll add a few tidbits that fall within the blog's niche.

First up is this excellent read in the Chron on Vietnamese evacuees arriving in Houston post-Katrina:

With Vietnamese evacuees continuing to pour into Houston, some Asian representatives worry the community may be trying to do too much on its own.

The uncounted thousands of Vietnamese storm victims are not going to the Astrodome or the George R. Brown Convention Center to seek help from the government, leaders say. Instead, many gather at Hong Kong City Mall on Bellaire, a privately run mall where they are being connected with ample free food and housing from fellow Vietnamese help that cannot last indefinitely.

"The problem is, because the Vietnamese are not in the shelters, they are not receiving assistance" from the government and the American Red Cross, said Nguyen Dinh Thang, the head of Boat People S.O.S., a group that has helped Vietnamese from its Hong Kong City Mall office.

Many of the Vietnamese from New Orleans and Mississippi are staying with family and friends, while others are staying at Vietnamese Catholic churches and Buddhist temples. Some need medical attention, and many continue to look for lost relatives.


Some Vietnamese say they expect to stay in Houston permanently, which should solidify the city's role as the Vietnamese cultural center for the Gulf Coast. Though no one has an exact estimate, leaders say they think well more than 10,000 Vietnamese evacuees are now in Houston, on top of the 60,000 who already live in the region.


"The Vietnamese are not plugged into the mainstream services, and they need to be," said Watkins, who speaks fluent Vietnamese. "The people who were coming into our office were getting desperate."

Some had been staying in hotels they could no longer afford, while others had worn out their welcome at the houses of friends and relatives.

Asian leaders met with Mayor Bill White and City councilmen Gordon Quan and M.J. Khan earlier this week to consider ways to coordinate relief efforts among Asians.

But Quan later acknowledged it was proving difficult to get the different Asian groups to work together.

"It's like herding cats," he said. "The groups each want to do it on their own."

There's some community history that goes into this, as well as some Houston-area Asian community turf wars that have been the norm for too long. On the plus side, and make of it what you will, there's at least the benefit of an expansive and open-armed community willing to help. But one point ought to stand out for the sake of learning lessons from this that has nothing to do with one's worldview or whether we see government as the problem or the solution. It's just a matter of organization to help people to the fullest. Compare those $200 & $100 cards and vouchers to the $2000 cards given out by Red Cross and FEMA and the math is hard to add up for rent when the welcome mat gets a bit thinner. Hopefully, these folks get plugged in to the help and resources they need to locate loved ones and re-settle to the best of their abilities.

Posted by Greg Wythe on September 10, 2005 to Hurricane Katrina | TrackBack