Preston Weaver serves as our Chaplain at Community Health Services here at Central Dallas Ministries. He is an excellent pastoral counselor and he serves as the Senior Minister of the Central Dallas Church.
Earlier this week Preston attended a meeting of church leaders and others who have been vitally involved in Katrina and Rita relief efforts here in Dallas. I found his report on that meeting to be important and interesting.
What follows are his words.
It was a most informative meeting that helped dispel much of the misinformation that has been circulating.
Because Pastors and Congregations throughout the Dallas/Ft. Worth area have been partners with FEMA, HUD/DHA and the Community Council of Greater Dallas since evacuees of Katrina and Rita have arrived in the area, much of the information shared was to drive home the fact that the federal, state, and local governments; non-profit relief organizations and the faith-based community need to fortify our concerted effort of meeting the short and long-term needs of the evacuees that want to remain in our communities, as well as those that have a desire to return to New Orleans.
A large population of our business community and media are under the impression that the short-term needs of the evacuees are being met and that their long-term needs are being addressed.
This is, of course, far from the reality many of us assisting evacuees face everyday.
This meeting addressed some of the ongoing problems evacuees are facing(deadlines for temporary housing, qualifications and availability of public housing, awareness of and ability to navigate wrap-around services available, eligibility and ineligibility for FEMA funds, et. al.).
One of the issues that has become quite serious. . .is the lack of mental and physical health care for evacuees that were not on any form of assistance prior to their evacuation. Strategies are being developed to address this serious problem.
Another immediate issue is finding affordable housing for those evacuees residing in Collin County whose assistance expires on February 28. Some housing has been identified, but not enough, as of this date, to avoid a crisis. A collaborative effort is underway to address this issue.
Another meeting is scheduled for February 6. Notices should be circulating soon.
The crisis created by these devastating hurricanes has not gone away. Churches and other civic groups need to explore ways to respond to the needs of these new neighbors all over our metropolitan area. It is clear that suburban communities continue to have opportunities to respond with help and hope.
Churches and other communities of faith can and should step up to be involved in relieving stress and providing hope.
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