A friend who lives in one of the small towns just west of Houston, Texas spent last night volunteering on a Red Cross phone line. She and six other volunteers coordinated with local police to find housing for people on buses that were being turned away from the Astrodome. Although Houston had promised shelter for 25,000 people at the Astrodome, they began turning buses away once they hit about 11,300 people. Suddenly part of a small town think tank, my friend also did some grassroots decision-making on press release statements intended to keep open a pipeline to non-Red Cross-sanctioned shelters that wanted to help. They also finally updated information that was being disbursed by the media so that people now have another Red Cross emergency phone number to call besides the Houston one which has been hopelessly busy.
I'm proud of her. She was there until 4 a.m. this morning, working one of the only phone lines that was open after hours. She's now in the path of the busloads of Katrina survivors who are on their way from Louisiana towards Houston, San Antonio and who knows how many towns and cities in between who are now preparing emergency, and probably long-term, housing. The Astrodome has cleared its schedule through December. December. They're expecting it to be at least that long and longer that thousands of people without homes, money, resources or even personal belongings will be living there. They've set up a 77230 zip code so that these people can receive mail. At the Astrodome. Indefinitely.