Hurricane Katrina

Articles about the Hurricane Katrina disaster--which, thanks to the incompetence of the Bush administration, continues to this day.

Katrina-IT-Volunteers Mailing List is Active

A new mailing list has been setup for coordination and communication among the IT volunteers in Austin. If you are interested in participating, please consider joining the list.

You can subscribe, or get more information about the list, at: http://soaustin.net/mailman/listinfo/katrina-it-volunteers

If you are interested in being an IT volunteer, see the information at: http://www.austinfree.net/katrinavolunteer.htm

Boing Boing Considered Harmful to Shelter Residents

Although I'm finding some interesting things about the Hurricane Katrina relief effort blogged at Boing Boing (I posted one earlier today), I'm seeing some terribly misguided, distressing things too.

For instance, start with this post about the "concentration camp" setting in a Denver shelter. That striking description, however, is pulled out of context. Nobody in the shelter called it a "concentration camp." They are quoted saying things like, "real glad to be here." The "concentration camp" description comes from the reporter's displeasure at not having full access to the facility.

Well, how would you feel about the press being able to barrel into your bedroom at any time? Don't you think that might be a little damaging to your comfort and dignity? There are good reasons to manage press access in the residents' spaces.

Or take this article about the inability of some well-meaning volunteers to setup a low-power radio broadcasting facility in the Houston shelter. At this time the authorities are more concerned with moving people out of that shelter—not adding new ammenities to it—and they are doing a good job of it. News reports I saw today had the resident count down from 20,000 to 3,000.

I was listening to a disaster relief expert on the radio tonight (audio here, starting at 1:00) explaining how mass shelters are not the best solution, and instead create a lot of problems. I'd rather see officials working on moving people into better living circumstances, not building up a tent city.

The Red Cross may be a big, stupid bureaucratic organization, but they do have a little experience dealing with natural disasters. The Boing Boing crew (mostly Xeni) needs to drink a nice cup of STFU and recognize that their immense cleverness may not be what the evacuees need most right now.

Jasmina Tesanovic at Austin Convention Center

Boing Boing has posted a report by Jasmina Tesanovic on her experience in the Austin Convention Center.

This center for refugees is well-organized, compared to my ex Yugoslav experience. It has air conditioning, abundant cooked food, extremely clean bathrooms and well-behaved people. Nobody is crying, nobody looks depressed yet, nobody is even fighting...

Information center desk, youth center desk, school information desk, jobs information desk, family elder members desk, computer desk, deaf assistance desk, farmer

Katrina Relief: Fusebox Programmers Urgently Needed

There is an urgent need for Cold Fusion/Fusebox programmers to help develop automation tools to support the Austin shelter for Katrina evacuees. If you know anybody who can help, please email me at chip [at] unicom [dot] com and I will connect you with the appropriate city personnel.

Please do not distribute this notice after Friday, September 9.

Austin Linux User Group Pitches In

In the article A LUG pitches In, Austin-based tech journalist Joe Barr describes his experience—and that of other Austin Linux Group members—assisting with the IT needs at the Convention Center.

I don't think that I will ever forget the expression on the young man's face when -- after a volunteer found a match on his grandmother's name at another Red Cross site -- they were talking on the phone a minute later. It was a picture of pure joy and relief. And it wasn't the only one. I saw it happen a dozen times the second day. And that's what motivates me and hundreds of other volunteers to be a part of that.

He also discusses some of the difficulties and frustrations that volunteers are facing.

Join the Second Line

Jette has designed a really nifty T-shirt and is donating the proceeds to the Red Cross hurricane relief effort. I've got mine ordered. Hope it gets here fast. I'm looking forward to showing up for a volunteer shift wearing one of these beauties.

If you are wondering what this "second line" thing is, see her blog entry on the subject.

Never Again

Dear Senator Hutchison:

The most essential duty of our Federal Government is the safety and security of its people. Last week the Department of Homeland Security suffered complete failure in its execution of this mission.

I am furious that the Senate is even considering as its first order of business the repeal of the estate tax--an action that will benefit those who need it least, and jeopardize those who need it most. (I have heard stories this may be changed, and I pray that is true.)

What this Senate should be doing is delivering relief to the stricken in the southeast. And when that's done, it should be investigating why this colossal failure occurred.

In light of the problems demonstrated last week, I ask you to reconsider your position on tax cuts for the wealthy elite. Please prioritize FEMA funding over relief for the rich.

After 9/11 we declared, "Never again." Can we really mean it this time?

If you have thoughts to share with the Senator, use this form.

The R Word

There is a growing protest against the use of the word "refugee" to describe people escaping the Hurricane Katrina tragedy. Some have called it racist. I disagree, but I'm going to avoid the term myself.

I think the term "refugee" is perfectly apt to the situation: people seeking refuge. My friend Jette used the term to describe her family, who have fled the dangers of suburban New Orleans. Nonetheless, she does so with difficulty. Being a trained writer and editor, she chooses the word as most accurate.

A Google search suggests the term "refugee" has been in common usage to describe hurricane victims.

Google Search Hits
Refugee Evacuee
"Hurricane Andrew" 26,800 464
"Hurricane Hugo" 4,410 55
"Hurricane Camille" 10,100 149

The word refugee, while accurate, comes with an emotional load.

Yesterday, I worked at the Convention Center, where I met people escaping from the disaster. They ranged from a small business owner to women in senior apartments to families living in public housing. I had to gather their information to enter into the computer. Not merely name and birthdate, but also whether they received public assistance, whether they needed housing, if they planned to look for a job.

All these people were struggling to find dignity in the situation. Those who owned or rented wanted me to know that. Those who received public assistance wanted me to know they wanted to look for work.

All of these people are hurting, grateful, and proud. Even though the word refugee is apropos, I suspect they may see it as a strike to their pride. Right now, that pride is the best thing they've got going for them. That's why I'm going to avoid using it.

Sept 6 update: Editor & Publisher discusses this issue and comes to a similar conclusion.

austinhelpingneworleans.org, and More

A new portal has been setup for Austin-area people who want to help with the Katrina aftermath. It's called austinhelpingneworleans.org.

Additional shout out to Ray in Austin, who is covering the tragedy with such heart.

Austin resident Jette also writes about her experience watching as her family members become refugees in the crisis.

Catastrophic

Please give for victims of Hurricane Katrina.

Button courtesy PG.

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