Copyright 2004 Dolan Media Newswires
New Orleans CityBusiness (New Orleans, LA)
November 8, 2004 Monday
LENGTH: 435 words
HEADLINE: Louisiana churches forge evacuation plan for homeless during hurricanes
BYLINE: Richard A. Webster
In 1992, after Hurricane Andrew devastated Florida, Red Cross officials in Louisiana realized they had a problem.
"It was too late for the Red Cross to evacuate its shelters," said Kay Wilkins, chief executive of the organization's Southeast Louisiana Chapter. "Mothers were forced to carry children on their shoulders to keep them away from the rising waters. It was very frightening. We realized we were sheltering people in harm's way."
The Red Cross concluded that in the event of a major hurricane, anyone below interstates 10 and 12 would be at risk and therefore the Red Cross would not open shelters in that area.
"It was the first time anyone said aloud what everybody knew," Wilkins said. "If a category 4 or 5 hit, there would be no place safe in New Orleans."
Over the next several years, the Red Cross searched for ways to evacuate New Orleans during a hurricane. In early January, officials found their answer in the faith-based community and created Operation Brother's Keeper.
The program calls on churches to identify members of their congregations and communities who have transportation and those who don't. Anyone in need of a ride is partnered with anyone with a spare car seat. During a hurricane, these people evacuate to "sister churches" chosen by the Red Cross in safer areas such as Slidell or Covington where food and other resources will be provided.
An estimated 100,000 people in New Orleans have no mechanical means of transportation, according to the Office of Emergency Preparedness. But no one knows who they are or where they live, Wilkins said.
To obtain this information, the Red Cross turned to the religious community.
"We wanted someone who felt morally obligated to care for people in harm's way," Wilkins said.
In June, the Red Cross chose three churches - Historic St. Peter African Methodist Episcopal, St. Leo the Great and Pentecost Baptist - to participate in an Operation Brother's Keeper pilot program.
The Rev. R.L. Palmer Jr. with Historic St. Peter AME said his congregation has begun identifying those in need in his community.
"I'm exceptionally pleased that there is compassion for those of low wealth who have no transportation and little opportunity to find transportation," he said.
Establishing Operation Brother's Keeper as an effective evacuation plan will take three years, Wilkins said. The goal is to create a program that can be replicated throughout the country. "We'll never evacuate 100,000 people. It's impossible. And this answer may only reach 10 percent of 100,000 but that's 10 percent less you have to worry about."
LOAD-DATE: November 8, 2004
from Lexis-Nexis -- no link.
Note the absence of Catholic churches.