Monday, September 15, 2008

NAACP Teams are on the ground to assist in Hurricane Ike recovery efforts

Just days before new NAACP President & CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous took the reins of the nation’s oldest and largest civil rights organization this week, Hurricane Ike tore a path of destruction through the Gulf Coast and Caribbean disrupting and displacing more than a million families and victims. Within 24 hours of the storm’s landfall, NAACP teams, trained by the American Red Cross, were on the ground in Texas and Louisiana providing aid. Within 48 hours, a national team, dispatched by Jealous, was in the affected areas.

“We want to ensure that the rights of African American victims are protected and that they receive equal treatment in the aftermath of the storm,” said Jealous. “With support from our members, partners and the public we can make sure the woefully inadequate response by federal and local authorities during Katrina is not repeated.”

For many residents, it may be weeks before they can return home from cramped shelters. Others who opted to ride out the storm in their homes are finding themselves cut off from clean water, food, plumbing and power. There is an immediate need for ice, water, food, toiletries and other comfort items in the region, said Gene Collins, co-chair of the Texas NAACP Disaster Committee.

The NAACP has established a command center at its Texas State Conference Office in Austin to coordinate its disaster relief efforts. The NAACP and its partners encourage people in the surrounding regions to volunteer to assist in the recovery effort. If you’d like to be an NAACP volunteer, call the command center at (512) 322-9457 or contact the NAACP National Office toll free at (877) NAACP-98.

“There are good intentions in Texas, but still a lot of gaps that need to be filled,” Collins said, noting that many of the storm’s survivors are not being presented information in a way that is easily understandable which is creating a lag in services.

“We’ll be conducting assessments of both American Red Cross shelters and state operated shelters in Texas to monitor the effectiveness of the response and to identify where further aid may be necessary,” said Dickson NAACP Branch President Shirley Thaniels.

Today, NAACP teams and U.S. Rep. Al Green, a former Houston NAACP Branch president, are surveying the Congressman’s devastated district in neighborhoods of Houston before heading to Galveston. Although flooding has subsided, they describe finding widely scattered debris and many homes with missing roofs.

NAACP leaders in the region also report a severe lack of gasoline in the Houston area and that shelters in Tyler, Texas have reached capacity forcing many evacuees to be relocated to Fort Worth.

The NAACP, in partnership with the American Red Cross, is in a unique position to assist in disaster recovery because of its wide network of grassroots volunteers based in communities of all sizes across this nation. Since Katrina, hundreds of NAACP members have completed American Red Cross training as certified disaster relief volunteers in their communities. Some of those volunteers have been activated in Texas and repeatedly in the last three years for less severe incidents.

NAACP disaster relief volunteers often possess local knowledge that can be used to identify or get assistance into areas that are frequently underserved by traditional emergency relief agencies.

Firsthand accounts from the region can be found on the National NAACP blog [a link is provided in the Right sidebar], where staff is posting messages and photos.


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