By yesterday afternoon, the Santa Monica chapter of the American Red Cross had opened 107 displaced persons cases, representing some 150 individuals who have come here from the ravaged Gulf Coast area.
In the last week alone, 80 families, couples, or individuals arrived in the Santa Monica area, and are receiving aid and services from the Red Cross.
“Many of them have driven here on their own. A few have taken busses or found other means to travel here. The displaced persons are primarily from Louisiana and Mississippi,” said chapter Executive Director John Pacheco.
The majority of the Hurricane Katrina victims are staying with family, friends and relatives. “The chapter has found hotels or motels for 27 families and individuals and has issued over $52,000 in direct financial aid to displaced persons for food, clothing, medicine, housing expenses and other necessities,” Pacheco said. “About 90 percent of the victims being serviced by the Santa Monica chapter plan to permanently relocate to the Los Angeles area if they can find affordable housing and jobs.”
Most of the people the local chapter is assisting are couples or single persons. “We’ve seen relatively few children – maybe 12 or 15, so far,” Frank Vidrio, a volunteer who is helping coordinate family services locally, reported. “In addition to financial aid, we are providing referrals, helping to locate permanent housing, providing mental health services to those traumatized by the event, aiding in finding employment and doing all we can to render aid and comfort to help our clients return to a normal life.”
As of Monday, $642,000 had been donated to Katrina relief through the Santa Monica chapter. Money raised locally will go to food and shelter, medical and mental health services and direct financial support for the over 359,000 families now in 900 Red Cross shelters scattered across forty states.
Nationally, the American Red Cross has received $765million to date and estimates that $2-billion will be needed for disaster relief in the months ahead.
According to Red Cross officials, $1.4-billion will be needed for direct financial assistance to families and individuals, while another $78.4 million is needed for disaster related physical and mental health services, including replacing prescription medications and supporting the Red Cross network of nurses and trained mental health counselors. An estimated $744-million will be spent for food and shelter operations.
Displaced persons from the Hurricane Katrina disaster area are eligible for substantial aid in the form of financial support and services from a variety of charitable and state, federal and county governmental resources including the Red Cross.
45 volunteers from this area have been called up to disaster relief sites, primarily in the Gulf area, and the chapter has processed nearly 800 new volunteers to date. 700 of the new volunteers have or are completing training to go to the disaster area and work in relief efforts in shelters and service centers.
Another 70 individuals have completed specialized training in Red Cross family services that enables them to work directly with victims, and do the requited casework – both locally or at disaster area locations.
According to Pacheco, “Family services will become increasingly important in the recovery process as time goes on. As the shelter phase winds down in the months ahead, providing ongoing support for victims is a long term effort. Red Cross family service activities have stayed active for years rendering services after disasters such as the Oklahoma City Federal Building bombing, 9/11 and other hurricanes, earthquakes and floods.”
The Santa Monica chapter’s toll free Katrina disaster relief hotline: (866) 733-5010 is operational. The Hotline is a call-in center for Hurricane Katrina information and is also proving useful for tracking “in kind” donations as linking those who wish to donate clothing or services with those looking for clothing, jobs or who have other needs. Anyone looking for missing relatives or friends can call 877-LOVED-1S for the Family Links Registry.Those needing assistance can go to the local chapter, 1450 11th Street (at Broadway), in Santa Monica, or phone (310) 394-3773.