Alabama Southern donates rooms for Katrina evacuees

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 13, 2005

THOMASVILLE – A vacant facility will soon be home to hundreds of evacuees in the city of Thomasville.

Thirty-six homes and 180 dorm rooms in the old mental health center are being painted and refurbished by volunteer groups and organizations to become suitable to temporarily house former Mississippi and Louisiana residents.

“We wanted to do something locally and put our finger on the pulse,” Angela Armstrong, biology and anatomy instructor at Alabama Southern, said. “Our students wanted to help out and we were all trying to figure out what we could do.”

Email newsletter signup

Thus Armstrong, Sara Valine, a nursing instructor, and their students decided to adopt a house to rejuvenate.

“It’s good for people to do more than just donate checks to an organization,” Armstrong said. “We are trying to help these families get their children registered for school and have a normal life.”

According to Thomasville mayor, Sheldon Day, local groups aren’t the only ones helping the community.

“A group from Idaho and a group from Birmingham have adopted houses,” he said.

Armstrong also said Clarke County convicts were allowed to help cut bushes and repair roofing on some houses.

Day said “like new” appliances and furniture are needed for the homes to “make sure the families feel very much at home.”

As they prepare to move families into the houses in about two weeks, Day also said they are going over last minute details.

“We need a contract for the families so there are no misconceptions on how long they can stay,” he said. “We are trying to work through all the details.”

FEMA will work with evacuees to determine which newly decorated home will best suit the families.

As for the dorm rooms, Armstrong said couples without children or same-sex roommates will occupy them.

Although the houses are being taken care of, Armstrong said help is still needed to clean the rest of the facility.

“There is a ton of people working on this project,” Day said. “There’s been a whirlwind of activity. It’s phenomenal.”

Day estimates to house 300-400 individuals by the completion of the project.

“We will utilize every bedroom and every bed we have until we can help them find a more permanent situation.”

Day hopes to reuse the facility, once families move out, as a transition and rehab facility for former convicts.

“We are working with a state agency to acquire the facility,” Day said. “It will be a way to bring more jobs to Thomasville.”

Until then, Day said he is working with the state to house evacuees for as long as they need help.

“This is a great project and everyone has been wonderful,” Day said. “You always knew the people in West Alabama were great, but it’s when you are faced with times like this when you know you really have good folks in the community.”