We prepared food, shelter, clothing, education and everything else for the evacuees of Hurricane Katrina. We committed to taking up to 5,000 people into our city.
On Sept. 7, 38 people came. More came later – a total of 70 as reported by the Philadelphia Inquirer.
The evacuees were greeted with medical attention, counseling services, food and a bed. In a Philadelphia Inquirer article, Gov. Rendell tried to explain the underestimated amount of people by saying that people did not want to go so far from their homes and that they are not used to cold weather. Rendell said, “In some ways, it’s like preparing for a party and hearing that only one out of 10 of the guests are coming. Or maybe even less than that.”
“Project Brotherly Love” is the group set up by Mayor John Street as a relief effort for the victims of Katrina. The project is dedicated to providing victims with food, clothing and shelter.
On the city’s Web site, Street said, “The City of New Orleans is nearly underwater. People are without food, without a decent place to live and without medicine. We cannot stand idly by and allow this suffering to continue. We have a moral responsibility to do something. I concluded it was time for action.”
Street is absolutely right; however, taking a walk around Philadelphia – you’ll see people on the street without food, a decent place to live or medicine.
The heart swells when shown the boxes and buses overflowing with donations, or Web sites where people volunteer to take in evacuees.
According to an article in the Philadelphia Daily News, even the homeless of our city want to know where they can send some bottled water and maybe even a few dollars.
This surge of action confirms that we can do something about the homeless people we see in the streets of Philadelphia everyday.
Sister Mary Scullion is an advocate who runs the Philadelphia-based Project HOME. In a Philadelphia Daily News article she said, “We’re seeing an increasing number of homeless people here, but they’re not as dramatic to the public eye. The suffering happens in quieter, more subtle, more invisible ways every day in our city.”
Scullion and other homeless advocates hope that the footage of Katrina will bring the issue of homelessness back to the forefront.
It should not take a natural disaster to form “Project Brotherly Love” or to pack buses with food. According to Project HOME, the number of people living on the streets of Center City rose from 324 last year to 444 this year.
These numbers seem small in comparison to the number of people left homeless by the hurricane. If we can commit to housing 1,000 evacuees or prepare for nearly 5,000, we can house these people.
Scullion said in the Daily News article that we, as a nation, must end homelessness for everyone not just hurricane victims, and regardless of class. We only need the political ambition to do it, and we have seen this very response in our citizens after the hurricane struck.
Whether they are victims of a hurricane or of an unlucky break, homelessness is homelessness and we must open our arms and our hearts to house every person forced to sleep on the street, even when the destruction of Katrina has cleared.
Carolyn Steeves can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.