Sunday, April 02, 2006
Action Report: FEMA plans to shut down 'tent cities,'
volunteers scramble to find alternative housing
10:09 AM CST on Friday,March 31, 2006
Bill Capo / WWL-TV Action Reporter
Thousands of volunteers from around the city have been playing crucial roles in the re-building of New Orleans, but the non-profit and religious groups that sponsor them are worried because FEMA plans to close the tent cities that have housed many of the volunteers.
“It’s been astounding, we’ve been able to enlist the support of over, almost 3000 volunteers, if not more than that,” said Mike Hayes with Habitat for Humanity.
Many of the volunteers have been living in “tent cities” set up by FEMA. Two of them housed 1,200 volunteers at a time at a cost of about $100 per person per day. The tent cities had places to sleep, a shower, and a cafeteria.
“We’ve been staying in the FEMA tents, and they have fed us, it’s awesome food, I mean it’s awesome housing, they got hot showers every night for us, so it’s been a great experience so far,” said Auburn University volunteer Lindsey Harder.
FEMA said it has scheduled to close the camps on April 10 and 11.
“Why is this facility being closed down? Well FEMA originally had contracts for about the last six months to operate three camps in the New Orleans areas, and the contracts run out mid-April,” said FEMA representative Leo Skinner.
Non-profit and religious agencies that have sponsored the volunteers said losing the free housing could hurt their efforts to help New Orleans recover.
“The tent cities are critical in maintaining that level of volunteerism. If they are shut down or they go away, we’re going to have two alternatives. We’re either going to lose hundreds of hard working, willing volunteers, or we’re going to have to scramble to find other housing for them,” said Jim Pate with Habitat for Humanity.
Leaders of non-profit and church groups have been scrambling to find new housing for the volunteers who want to come down and help rebuild New Orleans, while at the same time hoping that FEMA will find some way to keep the camps open.
“Right now the biggest issue for us, especially coming up this summer when every youth group in the country wants to come down here, is where are we going to house them, where are we going to put them, where are we going to feed them?” questioned Aaron Arledge with the Louisiana Baptist Convention.
“We’re looking at the possibility of maybe some of the schools that maybe we can swap out gutting and clean up in exchange for housing volunteers,” said Pate.
Habitat for Humanity said they are hoping to get help from Louisiana’s congressional delegation, but are still preparing their own tents to house volunteers.
“Is there any chance that something could be done to keep these camps open? I’m not going to say yes or no, but I can tell you that the extension of the camps is being reviewed by headquarters, FEMA headquarters,” said Skinner.
This isn't even in my newspaper, as far as I can tell. I also searched Google News for it and came up with just about nothing!