WASHINGTON, D.C., SEPT. 2, 2005 (Zenit.org).- As federal help arrives to the areas hardest hit by Hurricane Katrina, Catholic Charities agencies from around the country are mobilizing to respond to short- and long-term needs.
Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New Orleans had to evacuate. Staff is operating out of the offices of Catholic Community Services of Baton Rouge to coordinate response efforts.
Catholic Community Services of Baton Rouge have trained volunteers in place in parishes that will be providing emergency assistance to those in need, and have begun refugee assistance efforts.
The Diocese of Shreveport, Louisiana, where a number or refugees have been resettled, announced it would accept any children affected by the hurricane in its diocesan schools at no cost.
The Diocese of Alexandria, Louisiana, 190 miles north of New Orleans, had several of its facilities designated as evacuation sites.
The diocesan high school was housing people evacuated from Our Lady of Wisdom House, a retirement facility in New Orleans, which initially evacuated 103 residents to a stadium in Alexandria.
The Alexandria Diocesan retreat center was housing a group of retired Sisters of the Holy Family and Red Cross relief workers.
St. Mary’s Residential Treatment Center for the Developmentally Disabled has provided shelter to 26 patients with feeding tubes, and many developmentally disabled adults.
The Diocese of Jackson, Mississippi, donated toiletries and bedding to storm refugees at the local Coliseum, home to 1,100 refugees. It was also developing a plan for educating students stranded in the diocese.
Teams from the Catholic Charities agencies in Florida and the Florida Catholic Conference are already providing advice and guidance to agencies in the impacted areas. These teams will be going to Mississippi and Louisiana next week to start proving technical assistance on the frontlines.
Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Miami has already distributed a large load of baby items, food, and other supplies to victims. It also hopes to provide shelter, medicine, utilities, and mental health counseling.
The Diocese of St. Petersburg, Florida, was accepting patients into its hospital system, and the Catholic Charities agencies there have been working to provide temporary housing.
The Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, Texas, where well over 30,000 storm refugees relocated from New Orleans and other Gulf Coast dioceses, is providing immediate monetary aid and housing.
The local Catholic hospital, Christus St. Joseph, mobilized its mobile health unit to assist at shelters. Catholic schools in the archdiocese are accepting displaced students and allowing them to register without transcripts or other transfer papers.
The Diocese of Tyler, Texas, began reaching out to refugees who moved into the diocese the weekend before the storm.
At St. Joseph Parish in Marshall, Texas, a former convent was made available to those wanting showers. Parishioners have opened their homes, provided food, fuel, phone and gift cards for storm refugees.
In the Diocese of Beaumont, Texas, a diocesan retreat center has been housing 35 people since before the hurricane hit. The Hospitality Center, a diocesan soup kitchen, was preparing to provide meals for people as their money runs out.
Dioceses as far away as Albany, New York, were prepared to send volunteers to assist in the affected dioceses and said it would help in relocating people if necessary.
For information on how to donate to the relief effort, visit the Catholic Charities Web page.