We are not the Red Cross

DailyKos is running a board for folks needing shelter. There’s also something over at LiveJournal and a hurricane blog (links via Rogers Cadenhead).

This is all cool and I love seeing people helping each other.

Having said that…

What the hell do you people think you’re doing? How do you know if that person contacting you is a true refuge or someone wanting to rob you blind? And are you ready to take a person in for possibly weeks? Months?

Come to think of it, we know what you own, how many kids you got, and that you at least have a computer since you’re weblogging. What a great way to do one’s early Christmas shopping if one was of a mind in this direction.

And for those of you who are thinking of getting caravans of stuff together to take down, what the hell do you think the well trained, and highly prepared Red Cross, not to mention FEMA, is for?

You want to open your home to a weblogger? Great. Make sure it’s someone you know and can live with for some time.

Trying to arrange a ride in New Orleans? It’s too damn late. Get to one of the ten shelters.

Going to stick it out and blog it, like a good little journalist soldier? Don’t want to miss the adventure? Not worried about it because your kitty cats are sitting calmly in the window and everyone knows animals can predict weather? Thanks for adding to the burden on the infrastructure put into place to provide support for those who have no option but to ride it out.

It’s frustrating to see people suffer, and we want to help, and that’s a goodness, and you should be admired for that. If you truly want to help, then donate to the Red Cross. They’ll need money, and not your old clothes and expired cans of food. They are the first line of a civilian help force, and should be the focus for early contributions. You might also consider donating to the Salvation Army, because they’re also experienced at giving help in times like this. Later, there will be other, sanctioned organizations that will provide effective, and targeted help, to which you can donate time, money, and goods. You might also consider donating blood. Even if it’s not needed for Katrina, it’s still needed.

As for those who have no choice but to ride it out, you’re in my heart, and that’s about all I can do for you right now.

There’s a fine line between providing effective help, and being a busybody nuisance. If you want to insert your butts into the emergency process, fine. Just make sure you don’t make more of a mess of it than it already is.

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24 Responses to We are not the Red Cross

  1. Shel, you are absolutely right about this. We live in an era when even liberals hate the government & don’t believe it can function effectively in an emergency, but government has a job to do, along with professional organizations like the Red Cross. If you want to be useful, stay the hell away from the danger zone & send money or give blood. Local governments & regional organizations do a pretty good job in emergencies. The rest of the time they are open to all the criticism people like to heap on them.

  2. Shelley says:

    Thanks, Joe. People want to do things to help. I can appreciate that. I just think we get caught up in this whole ‘blogging’ thing a little too much at times.

  3. Jim Dermitt says:

    There was some woman on the news with a three year old girl and she was planning on staying on a shrimp boat with her boyfriend out on the water during the storm. I thought, the poor kid that sounds really dumb.

  4. Jim Dermitt says:

    Hurricane Could Leave 1 Million homeless.
    http://www.redcross.org/donate/donate.html
    Watch out for snakes after the storm is over.

  5. Rob says:

    Shelley,

    You are so right. The Red Cross is used to dealing with scammers after disasters. Same for the Salvation Army. A few ministers in the Pittsburgh area learned the hard way after giving money to con artists claiming to be flood victims. The places handing out food to those forced out of their homes had to check IDs.

    There are things webloggers can do. There are things we can’t. You’ve pointed out some of the things we can’t do. Thanks.

  6. adamsj says:

    On the other hand, the people who are putting up on-line check-in boards are doing something useful, unintrusive, and sufficiently non-critical that emergency services shouldn’t be doing them just now.

    (And why don’t they have such check-in boards ready to go? Good question. Next?)

  7. Jim Dermitt says:

    New Orleans Superdome, where 10,000 people took shelter from Hurricane Katrina, has started leaking. The report said sections of the roof has peeled away.

    This doesn’t sound good, openings of about 6 feet long sheets of metal, flapping visibly, rumbled loudly.

    I wonder if the thing could cave in. There was a guy on the news talking about people going to a church and the church caved in during a past hurricane. It sounds like the worst is about to come.

  8. James Kew says:

    The reader comments on this BoingBoing post are both good and bad.

    Good: “The single best thing Joe Geek can do is give cash. Not stuff, cash.” and “Stay the hell away from New Orleans.”

    Bad: “Suggestion: we the geeks put together and deploy the world’s largest cybercafe …in the Astrodome”. Oh, please, no: let the professional agencies deal with provisioning communications to refugees. Give cash, and stay the hell away.

  9. Linda says:

    Regarding Jim Dermitt’s comment:

    August 29, 2005 | 9:33 p.m. EDT from:
    Before we go, an update on a story we brought you Sunday night. It was about Donna Lowry, her 3-year-old daughter Demee and her boyfriend. They live in Houma, Louisiana, southwest of New Orleans in the bayou. They decided to ride out the storm on a 78-foot shrimp boat, having lost a house in Hurricane Lilly a few years ago.

    After the story aired we were flooded with calls from viewers expressing concern, mostly over the little girl’s well being.

    We checked in today and they’re fine. They said the boat rocked about ten times and they “didn’t feel a thing.” Their main concern today: they fear they might have lost their house again, but because the water’s high and the roads are out, they can’t get home to be sure.

  10. Shelley says:

    Linda, thanks for update. I know I’m relieved and I imagine Jim is, too.

  11. Karl says:

    Shelley – I’m pissed….

    http://www.phillyfuture.org/node/1603

    Take a look see. DAMN. This is not a time to push politics!

  12. Shelley says:

    Karl, interesting. Why do you have to link to Instapundit to donate for the relief effort? That’s bizarre.

    I’m not sure why people can’t just quietly give, and leave it at that.

    Later: I went and looked at both efforts, and some of the others going on. It’s good to encourage people to do something. But the folks at the Astrodome don’t need a truck of school supplies, and people don’t need to be linked, and webloggers don’t need to create ‘check in’ boards, as folks should be checking in with FEMA and the Red Cross _not_ webloggers.

    My suggestion to you Karl? Ignore ‘em. That’s the same as shooting them dead in these parts.

  13. Karl says:

    Not to donate, but to take part in their coordinated donation collection effort. NZ just replied to my email inquiry over that requirement and said it isn’t neccessary – which is great. I’m now asking him to make that clear on his info page.

  14. Gina says:

    Shelley,

    What a cynic!

    What the hell do “we” people think we are doing? Practicing our faith! “Whatsoever you do unto THESE…”

    If Jesus Christ Himself, knocked on your door and asked you for a place to lay His head down tonight…would you slam the door in His face?

    In case you haven’t seen any news lately, there’s no room at the Inn! ANYWHERE! Cash donations will not provide these people a place to lay their children down to sleep tonight.

    Are we taking a risk? Sure. But it looks like a pretty small one to me. What’s the worst could happen to me WHEN I take total strangers into my home? Somebody is bound to say they could kill me. But if that happens, I go to Heaven and they have to answer to God for their actions. So that’s not the worst possibility.

    They could steal my worldly possessions. But what are they going to do with them? Can’t take them home with them… don’t have gas to drive there and probably don’t have a home anymore even if they did have gas! Maybe sell them and rent a hotel room? NOPE! No room at the Inn…remember?

    Ever been homeless, Shelley? I bet not. If you had ever spent so much as one night of your life without a roof over your head that you could call your own, I think you would have a different take on all of this.

    Be VERY worried about your soul, Shelley. Your egocentricity will be something you may have to answer to God for someday if you don’t change.

    God bless you Shelley. And I KNOW He will bless the people who dare to be His channel to provide for His children in this hour of unimaginable need.

    Gina

  15. Shelley says:

    Gina, actually I have been homeless. And I have been poor, and I have been hungry.

    So, Gina: going to open your home to an atheist? How about a Muslim?

    But by all means–don’t donate to the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, or any other organization that is trying to help people other than just webloggers and Christians. Oh and who also have the means to house hundreds rather than just a few.

    Open your home, and introduce your children to strangers, because God wants them in heaven, too.

    Or what you might want to do, is go down to the local Red Cross and volunteer, which I have done. You can even mention you’re willing to take folks in, but you know, they’re going to be more interested in money to pay rent on apartments so that folks can have a place of their own, and not have God fed to them 24 hours a day.

    Which, of course, you wouldn’t do. Right, Gina?

  16. Gina says:

    Hmmm… Open my home to an atheist or Muslim? Might be an opportunity to minister to more than their physical needs. I haven’t put any constraints on my offer to help.

    I didn’t realize being willing to shelter the homeless disqualified me from cash donations as well.

    If my children were not grown and on there own, their safety would certainly be a factor in my decision. The only one I am putting at risk (if I am) is myself.

    As far as volunteerism with the American Red Cross, my history goes back to 1970 when I became the first Volunteen in the history of Arkansas Children’s hospital to put in 500 hours of service in a single summer…so judge me if you want.

    Sorry I stumbled across your discussion. Looks like your biggest interest here is in arguing.

    Have a nice day, Shelley.

  17. Shelley says:

    And of course, that’s not why you came back, eh?

    Do me a favor: ask at your local Red Cross about what they think about you opening up your home. Follow their advice. All the volunteer hours at a hospital doesn’t make you an expert in disaster–the Red Cross is.

    Then think about being a person who lost a home and then is forced to share a home with a stranger, every day being reminded that the home they’re in belongs to someone else.

    But by all means, open your home up. Just remember that once you’ve done so, the home is no longer just yours.

  18. Gina says:

    OK, you got me on that one! Obviously, we both enjoy a good debate.

    My local Red Cross (actually, the Disaster Relief Coordinator – I think was her title) said, “Thank you so much. Are children OK? How many do you have room for in your home?” That was last night when I stopped by the local office on my way home from work.

    And you’re absolutely right that I am not an expert in disasters… which is why I’m not on my way south to try to pluck survivors from roof tops or anything like that. I can’t do that part. But I can make the mortgage payment and keep the electricity turned on and keep food in the fridge. I can welcome them, try to comfort them, tuck the kids in for them cause mom hasn’t had a chance yet to just fall to pieces.

    And you’re right about a constant reminder that the roof over your head belongs to someone else. I’ve experienced that too. Its a really confusing feeling…the longing for your own space, all mixed up with so much gratitude that just for today, my immediate needs have been met.

    I know they want and need a way to have their own home. My hope is that I can help with some of those immediate needs so they can take a deep breathe, then figure out what they need to do to make their way back to a home of their own.

  19. Shelley says:

    Then Gina, more power to you, and you did it right. You thought it through, you worked with the Red Cross (who can do initial screening), and you’re aware of what the people will be feeling as they stay in your home.

    The people who I was angry at in this post, offered their homes based on passion of the moment, and without consideration of the long-term committments.

    Good luck, and I hope it works for you.

  20. Heidi says:

    I stumbled upon your discussion after searching for katrina “open your home”. I found your discussion and the moveon.org page organizing housing at about the same time and now I’m not sure what to do.

    I have the desire and the means to help out someone who has lost everything. I could provide a room, and food, and support in starting over again. And I don’t have any issues with it taking a long time. But I do have young children and their safety is, of course, my first concern. I’m not quite as open to the risk of robbery or murder as Gina.

    I know there are good people that need help. It is tragic that I must be afraid to offer lifesaving help that I am capable of providing.

    It made me sick to see the situation at the New Orleans Convention Center today – all the people without food or water, dragging bodies to corners. All I could think about was my empty bedroom and how I might link myself with someone there.

    I don’t have a ton of money to give the Red Cross and I’m terribly skeptical about how much of that donation actually makes it into the hands of the hungry. Besides, whatever money I could donate would never compare to the safety and security I could provide a young family.

    Simply dismal.
    Heidi

  21. Shelley says:

    Heidi, your heart is good and just wanting to help, does.

    I think you’re right to be cautious. The MoveOn housing effort does have a safety net in that you’re only paired off with people who have been vetted by the Red Cross or another reputable organization. However, just because a person is ‘good’ does not mean that the experience will ultimately be good: for you, or the people you would help.

    A suggestion: wait a few days. It won’t a difference to the people in New Orleans, but it may help you be more comfortable about your decision. Don’t react immediately from the horror and sadness. The folks in New Orleans and Mississippi-they need us to be calm and determined to be of real help.

    Just a thought.

  22. Heidi says:

    That is good advice. It is my 10th wedding anniversary tomorrow and we are going to spend some time discussing all of this as we reflect on the last ten years and ponder the next ten.

    There always seems to be a story (baggage?) behind one’s perceptions, and I must spend some time determining if I’m being rational or if I am caught up in what seems very mystic to me. You see, we have been seriously considering becoming foster parents and recently moved into a home with an extra room. We also never had a daughter (we have three boys). However, with each pregnancy, we had a girl’s name ready… Katherine Lena. The name is extremely meaningful to me (Catherine = Wuthering Heights, Katy = a childhood friend, Katherine = a cousin in Norway) and Lena was my fabulous great grandmother. In Norwegian, the name would be pronounced “Katrina Lena”, which is sort of fun and silly, but that’s only in Norway. :) So, when I heard last week that a hurricane was being named Katrina, I joked about it with friends. Then I saw all those children needing a home. It seems that Katrina is calling to me… now is the time. Very mooshy, sentimental stuff, I know. It’s very unlike me. I’ll take the weekend to think it over.

    Heidi

  23. Deb says:

    Well, a news report has said that only 30% of ur dollar donations actually goes to help. Which is mind boggling.

    Also, when an organization such as Red Cross refuses WATER from major corps(Nestle and Miller) and says they want money only, it really makes me curious as to why they would refuse help in any form they can get it, especially the first week when WATER was very important, knowing full well all of the people could not be rescued immediately. You can survive without food for a very long time, but not without water.

  24. adamsj says:

    Deb,

    It costs money to do good. Here is the Charity Navigator report on the American Red Cross, which shows that 91.1% of their fundraising goes to program activities, 5.4% to administration, and 3.5% to fundraising costs.

    That’s very efficient.

    I don’t know about the water thing, but I do know–have been involved on the corporate side at a grunt level–that some corporate donations are tax breaks first, PR second, and actual charity last if at all.

    However, I’d rather assume that, in this situation the offer is sincere–in fact, I believe it is. Still, it’s probably faster to buy water nearby than to ship it in for free.