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55,000 in FL shelters

With more than 55,000 people in shelters in Florida - more than 800 of them with disabilities - the "wait-and-see" is painfully lengthening as Hurricane Frances crawls toward Florida.

BY SUSAN KIM | BALTIMORE | September 4, 2004


"I have spoken to several people from across the country who want to donate time, money, and other resources."

—Jerry Collins


With more than 55,000 people in shelters in Florida - more than 800 of them with disabilities - the "wait-and-see" is painfully lengthening as Hurricane Frances crawls toward Florida.

And the emotional strain will likely grow as people view the damage - some for the second time in about three weeks.

"Many people are still homeless, some still living in shelters, and still reeling from Charley’s destruction, “ said Rick Augsburger, director of the Church World Service (CWS) emergency response program. "This storm, if it hits some of the areas damaged by Charley, will cause significant damage and trauma."

Many emergency workers and caregivers are also emotionally and physically taxed from the intense response of the past several weeks. CWS was preparing - along with other faith-based responders - to offer spiritual care for emergency response workers and community leaders.

CWS plans to dispatch a trained interfaith trauma response team, Augsbuger said. "That team's members will come from across the U.S. to the affected area as early as Tuesday next week, to provide 'care-for-caregiver' support that can enable responders and local members of the faith community to get the help they need to keep on going."

Meanwhile many voluntary organizations were forced to temporarily halt operations.

Southern Baptist Disaster Relief teams were waiting at a fairground in Perry, Ga., to re-deploy as soon as it was safe, said Susan Peugh, public information officer.

The Southern Baptists served more than 888,000 meals in the wake of Charley. "We currently have 50 units who have been activated or staged and more on the way," said Peugh.

The Salvation Army Team Emergency Radio Network (SATERN) was also preparing to activate on Saturday. SATERN is a HAM radio team that not only helps its onsite volunteers be in touch with the national office, but they also help families find each other when a disaster wipes out all other forms of communication.

In the wake of Hurricane Charley, SATERN has fielded hundreds of inquiries about missing family members.

Groups such as CWS, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief and SATERN depend on donations from a compassionate public to continue their work.

Will "double disasters" overwhelm donors - or inspire them to redouble their giving?

Jerry Collins, director of disaster response for Catholic Charities USA, said he first thought the public would be tired of giving - but that he changed his mind. "Initially, I thought folks would be weary," he explained. "That was based upon what I have seen since 9/11. However, since the initial impact of Charley, my opinion has changed. I have spoken to several people from across the country who want to donate time, money, and other resources.

"Also, in my travels back from Florida, ahead of Frances, I overheard several people in the airport in Florida and Georgia expressing concern for the plight of folks in the state."

There is no doubt that getting public support for another hurricane response so soon will be a challenge, admitted Jim Morsch of Nazarene Disaster Response.

"Yet one can see more unprecedented 'neighborhood support' for each other than many have seen in a long time as they pray and prepare for another hurricane," he said. "I saw small groups of neighbors spontaneously team up together and go around from house to house in their subdivisions or neighborhoods and offer help to those in need."

His phone is ringing more than ever, he said, from people offering support and concern. "A 93-year-old gentleman called from California and asked how he could help. A couple in their 50s called from Nashville and asked what could they do."


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