[StBernard] Debris workers lodging extended
westley at da-parish.com
Sun Apr 9 01:29:26 EDT 2006
Debris workers lodging extended
FEMA to keep camps at least until June 1
Saturday, April 08, 2006
By Paul Purpura
West Bank bureau
Volunteers flocking to the New Orleans area to help clear storm debris and
gut flooded houses will have free lodging at least through June 1, FEMA
announced Friday, days before the agency had planned to close its four camps
for relief workers.
The sites in Algiers, Chalmette, Port Sulphur and Cameron Parish had been
slated to close next week, leaving volunteer organizations traveling to the
region to help with post-Katrina recovery efforts scrambling for alternate
sites. The four camps combined house about 1,500 people, but the number of
beds has varied based on need, said Elizabeth Childs, a spokeswoman for the
Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Under FEMA contracts, firms have operated the tent cities for months,
initially to help emergency workers and National Guard troops in the wake of
Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. As first responders and troops left, the
lodging was opened to volunteers, from faith-based groups to college
students on spring break. By one count, as many as 10,000 volunteers were in
the area last month.
"Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition," Elenor Soltau, disaster relief
coordinator for Canal Street Presbyterian Church, said Friday upon learning
of the extension.
The Mid-City church, which has assisted with the influx of volunteers from
across the nation, had three teams of 65 workers scheduled to stay in Camp
Algiers at Behrman Park through May, and they already paid their return-trip
airfare before learning the camp would close Monday, Soltau said. That left
her seeking other lodging, she said.
"We're thrilled for the fact that at least it gives us two more months to
house teams," Soltau said. "For now we can continue with plans for the teams
that are coming in."
Hearing murmurs of the camps' closing in recent weeks, Habitat for Humanity
and St. Bernard Parish officials began working on an alternate site for 800
workers in Arabi, as Camp Premier in Chalmette, which has housed 7,500
volunteers so far, was slated to close Wednesday, said Michael Hayes, who
has recruited volunteers for the nonprofit group.
The group is still seeking a more permanent site, but the FEMA extension
gives them some "breathing space," he said. "We're very thankful this is
The camps include air conditioned tents with wooden floors that have cots,
dining facilities serving three meals daily, washers and dryers, restrooms
FEMA pays about $100 daily per person to operate the camps, not including
administrative costs such as salaries for FEMA employees involved with them,
said Childs, the FEMA spokeswoman.
FEMA said the extension will help state and parish officials find "more
comprehensive solutions" to help the volunteers involved with long term
"Our base camp operations have been a vital support component for workers,
many of them volunteers, that have come to help in the recovery," FEMA's
deputy director for Gulf Coast operations Gil Jamieson said.
U.S. Rep. Bobby Jindal, R-Kenner, opposed the camps' closure, saying in a
March 29 letter to acting FEMA director David Paulison that more than 400
volunteer groups have helped in recovery efforts.
"It would be impossible to carry out the sheer volume of recovery needs
without the assistance of volunteer organizations," he wrote.
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