September 6, 2005 Albany-- Cities and churches across south Georgia reached out to hurricane evacuees; housing them, feeding them and helping them meet their immediate needs.
But now the city of Albany is realizing that many evacuees could be here for months, maybe longer. So they're turning their efforts to helping displaced families start lives in a new town with little or nothing off their own.
Lisa Jordan and her family are some of the more than 250 hurricane evacuees who've made Albany their temporary home. "Hopefully one day we'll go home, but we don't know when," she said.
The Jordans found help today at Mt. Zion Baptist Church. The church is one of many offering food, clothing, and referral services to evacuees.
Grady Thompson of Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church said, "We're feeding them a hot meal Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. We're also providing non-perishable goods we can give to families to take with them."
Taking care of evacuees immediate needs is no longer enough, they now need long-term places to live and jobs. Most can't get back to their homes in Mississippi and Louisiana for weeks. Others have no homes to go back to at all.
Albany Emergency Management Director James Carswell says GEMA is looking to larger cities, like Albany, for housing. "GEMA is going to be looking for locations throughout the state to find permanent housing for these people for an extended period of time."
Today, city leaders and area churches came together to find out what resources, homes, jobs, schools, are available here. Greater Second Mount Olive Baptist Church offered up about 115 homes, in what was Boyette Village. "About 114 of those units are ready for people to move in with the exception of some cleaning," said Leslie Parrish of Greater 2nd Mt. Olive Baptist Church.
The church is working with Congressman Sanford Bishop to get approval for evacuees to move into the old military housing units, which the church had planned to use for homeless and transitional housing.
"These people are in transition. So it fits perfectly into the need," Parrish said.
Chief Carswell says GEMA and FEMA might help with the short and long term costs of taking care of evacuees. "There are monies available, but the paper work has to be done and it has to be channeled properly."
It will take federal, state, and local government working with churches and other charities to help hurricane victims rebuild their lives. It will no doubt be a long process and the people of Albany are starting now.
The city of Albany continues to encourage people to donate money to reputable charities like the Red Cross and Salvation Army. Money is the best help you can give to hurricane victims.