In a 3 p.m. conference call Friday, Sept. 2, with the state’s county judges, Gov. Mike Huckabee said that 4.000 evacuees from New Orleans are “on their way even as we speak” to Arkansas via air and bus — what he called “the first wave” of what may be 20,000 additional refugees arriving in the state in coming days.
Huckabee said the buses will make stops at church camps in South Arkansas to unload some refugees before continuing on to Fort Chaffee near Fort Smith, where bedspace for 4,000 has been activated.
Calling the devastation caused by Katrina a “horror,” Huckabee said that current Red Cross estimates are that 50,000 evacuees have sought refuge in the state.
Huckabee said that between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, sites in all 75 counties will hold registrations for evacuees, in order to build a database to help people get services like bank records, prescription medication, schooling, and job assistance. In addition to a relief assistance website — www.kare.arkansas.gov — Huckabee announced a toll-free number for information about hurricane relief efforts in the state: 1-877-2WEKARE.
“[These refugees] need to be treated like human beings. Because many of them haven’t felt a sense of really being humans in a long time.” Huckabee said. “If there’s nothing else we can give them, we must give them dignity.”
Huckabeen had harsh words on the relief response in the beginning: "Quite frankly, I've been almost ashamed to see many of our American citizens sleeping on concrete for three nights without food and water, to see infants who didn't have so much as something to drink. They deserve better than that. We've often been able to get food and supplies in to the refugees who were escaping a civil war in the Sudan more effectively."
In addition to Red Cross emergency shelters and other shelters, agencies are at work attempting to begin the task of finding long-term housing for storm evacuees. Both the Little Rock and North Little Rock Housing Authorities have space available. There's a national website
offering a matching service between willing landlords (some with free or reduced price housing) and people in need. All parties should take precautions in housing arrangements, the website cautions. Use good judgment and common sense and understand the listings are not screened.
State relief information
For information on a variety of state relief measures, go to www.kare.ar.gov. It is the website set up for the state's coordinated effort on housing, emergency relief, schools and medical care. It began functioning Thursday, Sept. 1, and should grow as time passes.
In Pulaski County, registration of evacuees this weekend will be done at the National Guard in North Little Rock, 2600 Poplar.
The situation in Little Rock
Friday, Little Rock Mayor Jim Dailey issued the following statement on the city's efforts:
The Convention & Visitors Bureau continues to provide a Hotel Help Line 1-800-844-4781 to assist people who are still coming to Little Rock. It will be open until 7pm tonight and from 9am to 1pm on Saturday.
Representatives from Little Rock area staffing agencies and the Central AR Human Resources Association will be accepting applications for positions that are immediately available at a job fair on Saturday September 3, 2004 from 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. in the Atrium of the Statehouse Convention Center. This is a cooperative effort primarily to assist the displaced evacuees from the Gulf Coast region. Other organizations are also looking at establishing job fairs.
Many area attractions are providing free admission to Katrina refugees. It is understandable that the refugees want to be close to a TV and a telephone for the latest information or be there in case someone calls. As fatigue sets in and they may desire a temporary escape, LR area attractions are opening their doors, including the major museums, the Zoo and the War Memorial Fitness Center.
The Police and Fire Department are reviewing existing resources to see if it is possible to send personnel to the New Orleans area to assist with law enforcement and other emergency needs.
MEMS has deployed 2 ambulances to assist in transport in areas ravaged by Katrina. They are also heavily involved in the transport of victims to this area.
Little Rock Parking Enforcement will not be writing parking tickets to cars with Mississippi and Louisiana license plates.
There are refugees who came to Little Rock with pets – and may need to stay in shelters that do not allow pets. Little Rock Animal Services is prepared to accommodate those animals while their owners are unable to care for them.
The Little Rock Housing Authority has identified available housing for refugees. They are working with the City’s Housing & Neighborhood Programs Department and area service agencies to get the units ready for people to move in.
At this point, the City has not been asked to set up shelters in Community Centers or other City facilities. If that time comes, the City is prepared to do so.
According the Roger Elliott, American Red Cross
The shelter at State Fairgrounds has around 60 at night. The population increases greatly at mealtimes from refugees staying in other accommodations.
The Red Cross is working to open service centers next week. These will allow the Red Cross to provide one-on-one casework to assess needs and provide resources.
Blood supplies nationwide are low. In the summer, people typically do not donate as much. This summer was no exception. For more information, call 1-800-GIVE-LIFE.