Although refugees from the ravaged Gulf Coast region aren’t expected to arrive in Spokane by the busloads, local agencies and volunteers are working together to ensure that those who do end up in the area get the help that they need.
Dozens of organizations and individuals have gathered several times this past week to discuss the region’s response to the hurricane disaster. A recent meeting at the Inland Northwest chapter of the American Red Cross brought together people from a number of agencies and groups including Spokane Neighborhood Action Program, WorkFirst, the Salvation Army and Bethel AME Church.
Evacuees are slowly trickling into Spokane, according to several local agencies. So far, 11 families from the Gulf Coast have registered with the local Red Cross chapter. Catholic Charities, which has already provided a furnished home this weekend for a family of two from New Orleans, is expecting more evacuees in the coming weeks.
Private citizens in the area also have started a network to help hurricane victims who want to relocate to the Spokane area. About 50 of the 140 area residents who offered free housing to evacuees on www.hurricanehousing.org contacted each other this past week to discuss what more they can do to help. Many have already written checks to help and now want to do more. Others have no money to give but are willing to open their homes to any of the survivors seeking to start all over in a different part of the country.
Some people, including Johnny Humphreys of Spokane Valley, are concerned that many of the hurricane victims are not aware of the offers of free airfare and housing that are available in Spokane. So on Monday, Humphreys will travel to Houston to spread the word.
“I hope to just be a good listener for some people who are trying to figure out what they want to do,” said Humphreys, the former CEO of Itron and now head of GenPrime, a Spokane tech company.
He realizes that the majority will want to stay close to home, he said. But for those who have no home to go to or who want a fresh start, he hopes to encourage them to come to Spokane. “We’re big enough to have opportunity and small enough to care,” he said.
Humphreys said he knows people in the Spokane area who are willing to pay refugees’ airfare and help them find work here, in addition to offering them free housing until they can get back on their feet. He plans to spend three days in Houston, where he hopes to talk to evacuees staying at the Astrodome, Red Cross shelters and other sites.
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