Now is not the time to lose our resolve to assist victims of Katrina, to redeem hopelessness and to engage those who have lost everything yet teach me so much by their faith and hope in the midst of devastation. We ought to stay focused on helping long-term the evacuees who have spread out over fifty states.
Garnett Church of Christ, where I now work in Spiritual formation, small groups, and outreach is partnering with the North Peoria Church of Christ and civic housing organizations such as the Urban League to help up to fifty families find homes and start new life in Tulsa, to help them live meaningfully with adequate food, housing, clothes, transportation to live dignified and productive and honorable lives as God intended for humanity to live. Our commitment is to share with the desperate, the poor, and those hit with trauma, so they can rise again and live respectable and good lives in a new community.The process of helping evacuees find housing is complex.
It’s very important to note that this process has been made up with cooperation of many, many good and kind people in many organizations and churches. The process is not perfect, but we have chosen to participate in a way that brings honor to God and brings us in direct touch with needs of people by working in teams/small groups in direct connection with families. Some in the church have money and goods to donate, and that is still needed, but we want to connect each individual up with small teams of people who are helping families.
1,500 evacuees came to Camp Gruber near Muskogee, Oklahoma. They work about ten steps toward getting into housing that is either temporary or permanent, depending on their long-range plans to return to the Gulf Coast or start a new life elsewhere.
Jill has spent two days at Gruber meeting with evacuees, asking them questions such as, “Where do you want to live?” “What was your house like?” “How much did you pay in rent?” “Where were you working?” We worked with the Housing Authority (Tulsa, Muskogee), USDA, and Ministerial Alliance of Muskogee. President of the Muskogee Ministerial Alliance Kevin Stewart, also minister of the Muskogee Church of Christ, worked directly with reps from North Peoria and Garnett churches and many others in a variety of denominations. The pace was furious for several weeks until all the evacuees have been relocated to more permanent housing.
I believe a divinely appointed person in this is Carmen Pettie in the Tulsa Urban League. She is also a member of the North Peoria Church and is a key link in the flow of families in need connecting with good housing and people to adopt their needs. Through Kevin, Carmen and many others working together, evacuated families connect with a host group or individuals and start looking for houses or apartments. Some housing has been available through HUD and other housing has been donated by landlords wanting to help and who have donated 6-12 months rent and in some cases utilities.
Churches and small teams of people have fixed and furnished houses and provided families with basics. Garnett small groups are adopting families in need and helping with a wide range of needs from finding housing to furnishing to clothes, food, dishes, bedding, and transport. Garnett small groups have adopted 10 families, and North Peoria churches have adopted many more. I don’t have a recent total of how many families have been helped to locate in Tulsa but will find out and post later.