Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Opening Our Arms and Hearts

Opening Our Arms and Hearts

As the Channel 5 Noon News noted, today hundreds of evacuees from New Orleans began arriving in St. Louis, St. Louis County and the Metro East in large numbers as part of the planned exodus.

Many will be housed, temporarily, at a Lambert Airport hangar (owned, I think, by Boeing), at the former Alton Mental Health Center in Alton IL, and at the former St. Louis County ACI (Adult Correctional Institution; later a juvenile offender boot camp) in the Chesterfield Valley (aka "Gumbo Flats").

These locations are less than ideal, but apparently the volunteers and staffers involved in setting up these centers are enthusiastic, and are trying to brighten up the places with toys for kids, removal of barbed wire, etc.

Hopefully, not too many folks in these areas will complain of a "New Orleans invasion" as some Baton Rouge residents supposedly have.

It is too bad, though, that folks are being housed at such remote locations, and at least two of which certainly have negative connotions / histories in the eyes of nearby residents. And none of the three are especially convenient to public transportation. Since most are being airlifted or bused here, they probably don't have cars of their own anymore; many probably never did. So, it would be preferable for them to have a way to get around St. Louis and look for jobs.

On this note, the Missouri State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) Situation Reports, issued 2-3 times daily in this crisis period, are a must-read. The report from 5 PM today suggests, though, that displaced persons may not have started to arrive at STL yet, stating "We are still in a holding pattern at this time..."

Nevertheless, whether they arrive today or over the course of the coming weeks, hopefully the evacuees will be treated well and warmly.

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