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FEMA’s Own Hurricane
Storm of Controversy Stirs Activists Over Evacuee Needs/Care
DALLAS- A storm is brewing over the way the Federal Emergency Management Agency is handling those Texans displaced by Hurricane Ike.
Pastors and activists are threatening marches and possible sit-in type protests against FEMA throughout the Metroplex until consistent action plans are developed to help displaced residents with food, lodging and address health, hygiene and security issues.
“We are mad and appalled about the way the federal government is handling these people,” said long-time veteran Texas activist Rev. Peter Johnson. “We are coming soon and will show up in force to make a statement and let FEMA know that the people need help now.”
Johnson, along with Dallas activists Rev. Ronald Wright, Rev. L.E. Stovall, Rev. Marion Barnett and others are organizing groups of evacuees and are considering marches and protests against FEMA demanding a full plan backed by the government that will offer guarantees of lodging and food for evacuees.
Currently, over 4,000 evacuees are spread out across North Texas. Many of those were invited by FEMA to come to the Metroplex with guarantees that help would be provided for them during the crisis.
Evacuees from Gulf Coast regions of Galveston, Beaumont and Port Arthur were forced from their homes by the hurricane and now with extensive damage and the lack of food, electricity, water and sewerage services, state officials do not want residents to return until repairs are made and the all clear is given.
With limited resources and no income, many evacuees are facing months of recovery from the disaster, uncertain conditions and fewer shelter options.
“These are poor people barely making it and who are here with no money and no gas,” he said. “They have no where to go and it is our responsibility to see that our fellow Texans are treated with dignity and respect.”
FEMA and state officials have warned residents to stay away from their homes, leaving them with few options when dealing with money, health care, lodging and food.
For evacuees, contacting FEMA has been a difficult task and FEMA’s on again, off again policies concerning evacuee long term care has not been consistent. Some evacuees have even been kicked out of hotels and motels over the confusion about payments.
Pastors are also concerned about health and security issues in shelters.
“It is not healthy for people to stay in close quarters or gyms over long periods of time,” He said. “It’s unsanitary and unfair. These families need more permanent arrangements like apartments or extended stay hotel rooms.”
Dallas and Fort Worth shelters are only temporary shelter and city government budgets do not include items that fund long-term room and board for evacuees.
Johnson said the government should be responsible for the thousands of displaced residents and do what is necessary to ensure their comfort and safety during their time of need.
“These are the kind of people Dr. King died for,” Johnson said. “We will fight for them and make sure they have a voice as we continue the legacy of Dr. King’s fight for fairness, justice and equality for all people.”