Communities Reach Out
to Help Their Own
By AP from the
NYTimes on the Web, September 13, 2005
Indian tribes are offering new homes
on nearby reservations. Gay couples are taking in other gays. And
the NAACP has sent thousands of relief workers into black communities to help
survivors of Hurricane Katrina.
After the storm hit and even before, ethnic, social and religious communities --
from Greek-Americans to the National Association of the Deaf -- scrambled to
help their own.
''It is times like this when it is important for native people to come together
to help one another out,'' said Tex Hall, president of the National Congress of
American Indians, who sent emergency relief coordinators to Louisiana this week.
In other cases, like the immigrant Vietnamese and Mexican communities, survivors
went to their own ethnic organizations for help, avoiding mainstream assistance.
''The Vietnamese evacuees are very hesitant to seek help elsewhere,'' said Tram
Nguyen, whose group Boat People S.O.S. has been trying to help thousands of
Vietnamese evacuees in Houston's Hong Kong City Mall.
''The language barrier is the predominant obstacle, but there's also a strong
sense of not trusting anyone outside of their community,'' she said.
With so many black families displaced, the National Association for the
Advancement of Colored People sprang into action, mobilizing more than 500,000
members and volunteers across the nation, primarily focusing on the needs of
impoverished black families who might have trouble being reached by relief
NAACP spokesman John C. White said the organization has been involved in
disasters in the past, but primarily when those disasters affect black
''We don't set up relief efforts per se just for people who are black,
but we also know that often our communities are underserved so we have a
particular emphasis on their needs,'' he said.
White said that in many communities, NAACP relief workers have a better idea of
where to set up, and are better able to coordinate services.
''Because of historical racism, some black people might be reluctant to go to
some of the places where the mainstream relief groups are setting up,'' he said.
In Houston, Michael-Chase Creasy and his friends who had fled New Orleans walked
into the first gay bar they could find after settling into a hotel. The
bartender gave them his number and said to call when they needed help.
A few days later, when it became obvious they weren't going home and hotel bills
were racking up, they called that bartender.
''He said, 'Well darling, what took you so long? We've got people all over
the gay and lesbian community who want to provide our people from New Orleans
with rooms to stay,''' recalled Creasy, who is now staying with two friends in a
lesbian couple's home in suburban Houston.
Meanwhile, the mayor of Eureka Springs, Ark., posted ''a special invitation to
ALL GAY LESBIAN BI TRANSGENDERED'' storm victims on an online bulletin board,
offering ''a safe, non-discriminating town in which to help evacuees rebuild
''This seems to be a somewhat forgotten group especially throughout the South,''
said Mayor Kathy Harrison.
Representatives of almost all faiths have been fundraising and volunteering for
general relief efforts -- from Catholic Charities USA, which has launched a
massive relief effort, to about 2,000 Muslim volunteers who marked the fourth
anniversary of Sept. 11 terrorist attacks by working in Houston's convention
These communities are also looking after their own.
Barbara Raynor, spokeswoman for Houston's Jewish Federation, estimates that
about half of New Orleans 12,000-member Jewish community is in Houston now.
The Jewish High Holy Days are approaching, and Raynor said Houston synagogues
have offered free membership and free enrollment in religious schools to the
In Jackson, Miss., where about 100 Jewish evacuees have been welcomed into
Jewish homes, Rabbi Valerie Cohen of Jackson's Beth Israel Congregation told The
Jewish Week newspaper that her congregants want to do more.
''There's also a lot of guilt that you're not doing enough, no matter how much
you're doing,'' she said.