FEMA's Disaster Recovery Centers Assist Katrina Victims
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
NEW ORLEANS, Sep. 21, 2005 Soldiers have been providing security at disaster-recovery centers throughout the city here to assist New Orleans residents facing pressing financial and other needs in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
Renea Addington, left, a temporary FEMA employee who works at the Federal Emergency Management Agency's disaster recovery center in the Algiers section of New Orleans, helps Hurricane Katrina victim Tamika Williams access disaster aid Sept. 20. Photo by Gerry J. Gilmore
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, these centers, including one located at L.B. Landry High School that opened Sept. 19 in the city's Algiers section, appear to be "going well," a local FEMA official said today.
Bill Lehman, FEMA's spokesman for the New Orleans area, said he was impressed after taking a recent tour through Algiers, an old neighborhood located across the Mississippi River from the French Quarter.
Lehman said, "It looked to me like 20 percent of Algiers' 67,000 residents" had returned and were having repairs made to their properties.
New Orleans residents can apply for financial, housing, food, clothing, transportation, and other types of emergency assistance at several disaster recovery centers FEMA has set up across the city, Lehman said.
Soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division and contractors have provided security for the FEMA employees at the centers, noted Army Capt. Joseph A. Harris, who's attached to the 2nd Battalion of the 82nd's 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment.
The Algiers center has already helped scores of New Orleans residents obtain disaster aid, said Renea Addington, a temporary FEMA employee who works at the center.
"It's an honor" to assist those in need, noted Addington, a volunteer firefighter from Riddle, Oregon. "We're firefighters and EMTs. This is what we do."
Addington is among a group of 60 firefighters and emergency medical technicians from across the country who volunteered to come to New Orleans to work for FEMA, noted Loyd Holliman, the task force leader for Addington's group.
Work at the FEMA center is "going great," said Holliman, the assistant fire chief at the Stonewall Fire Protection District in Stonewall, Colo. The firefighters had received four days of disaster aid training in Atlanta or Orlando, Fla., he noted, before they arrived in New Orleans.
Addington was putting her training to use by helping East New Orleans resident Tamika Williams, 24, who lost her house, car, clothes and furniture when Katrina hit. Williams, now staying with her sister in Algiers, said she found out about the FEMA assistance center after reading a flier provided by a firefighter.
Williams rated the center-provided services as "good," noting she's "getting a lot of questions answered and the people are helpful."
New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin recently ordered city residents to evacuate the downtown and adjacent areas due to concerns about oncoming Hurricane Rita, Williams noted.
Forecasters say the Category 4 hurricane will strengthen as it moves west across the Gulf of Mexico and, like Katrina, is threatening Gulf Coast regions of Lousiana, including New Orleans, and Texas. The Algiers section wasn't included in the mayor's evacuation directive, but returning residents are being asked to stay away for the time being.
Yet, Williams remained upbeat despite her material losses caused by Katrina and the possibility of another storm on the way.
"That's OK. I'm still here. I'm living. I'm breathing. So, I'm fine," she concluded.