Hale helps hurricane hapless

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 16, 2005

HALE COUNTY – Evacuees who ended up in Hale County can soon rely on a more organized way to get back to a normal way of life.

Cynthia Burton, executive director of Community Service Programs of West Alabama, called the meeting to coordinate Hurricane Katrina relief efforts.

Joined by representatives from the American Red Cross, the West Alabama Mental Health Center, FEMA, H.E.R.O., and the University of Alabama School of Law Burton said the Thursday morning meeting was successful.

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“It was very productive,” Burton said. “We had the key agencies there who provide direct assistance to the county.”

Representatives shared information about what each organization was doing to aid evacuees and talked about how they could team together to ease the pressures evacuees are facing.

“We are trying to coordinate and not duplicate our services,” Burton said.

Nicole Self-Drake Diaz of the UA School of Law told representatives about the Sustainable Communities Law Clinic.

“I am here to see what you are doing here and to tell you what we are doing in Tuscaloosa County,” she said. “We have a program that will assess the evacuees and assign them to a volunteer lawyer and they will also be helped by a volunteer law student.”

Diaz said the program could help evacuees and local residents who have law problems or questions due to Katrina.

“We got a phone call from a Louisiana evacuee because his apartment was fine but his landlord’s was destroyed and he wants to know if the landlord can take his apartment,” Diaz said.

Kelley Parris-Barnes from the West Alabama Mental Health Center advised the group to keep an eye out for a psychiatrist available to write prescriptions for evacuees.

“We have meds if you know anyone who needs them,” Parris-Barnes said. “We just need a doctor to write the prescriptions.”

Burton informed the group of her hopes to get more housing in Hale County, not just for evacuees, but for the sake of county development as well.

“There is not a lot of housing stock for low to moderate-income people in Hale County,” she said. “This is an opportunity to develop the area as well as to prepare for another disaster.”

After the meeting Burton invited Greensboro resident, Annie Lee, and her Louisiana family to speak with her and Red Cross volunteers to determine what kind of help each individual household is eligible for.

Lee said her family is open to any help the community can give.

According to Burton, approximately 30 people were helped by the time the sessions ended.

The group was also informed the Board of Education has helped children from 14 families and the Red Cross and FEMA are going out to do assessments.

“Our goal is to get these people back to self-sufficiency and if their sufficiency is back in Louisiana that’s fine,” Burton said of those who only want temporary housing. “Our ultimate goal is just to be beneficial and provide direct services to the people who need them.”

For housing information contact Cynthia Burton at (205) 752-5429, ext. 231

For law questions and information call (205) 348-6845.

For metal health assistance call (334) 289-2410.

To contact the local Red Cross about financial assistance or minor home repairs, call (205) 758-3608 or 1-800-516-3387.

For major home damage contact FEMA at 1-800-621-FEMA