Success Comes One Family at a Time

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Volunteers working disasters, quickly learn they must work with each individual household. This proved true when the HUD team, assigned to make shelter visits, met Ms. Tiffany Wagner at the American Red Cross (ARC) Shelter, Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

[Photo: Sandy Freeman, Tiffany and Kyle Wagner and Rogers Major]
Sandy Freeman, Tiffany Wagner, her son Kyle and her cousin Rogers Major.

HUD staff, conducting interviews alongside FEMA staff, tried to locate previous HUD-assisted clients who could be housed more quickly and be removed from the shelter environment. On Thursday, October 13, 2005, Ms. Tiffany Wagner, 9 months pregnant and the single parent of a 5-year old son, said she had been living in this shelter for almost two months. She had been a Section 8 client in New Orleans but was evacuated after Hurricane Katrina.

On Sunday, October 16, Tiffany came back to the office advise that she had been called with the news that a unit had been found for her and her son to move-in, following an October 19th inspection. Tiffany was concerned that she couldn't wait that long because the doctor had advised that she was soon to deliver.

Noting the urgency of the situation, the HUD team promised to make Tiffany's need for housing a priority. As soon as the Baton Rouge Housing Authority opened, Charles Eldridge, Public Housing Specialist in Fort Worth, called the Baton Rouge Housing Executive Director to get Tiffany a unit. About 9:30 a.m., Donna Roachford, CPD Specialist in D.C., called Sandy Freeman, Environmental Officer in St. Louis, to confirm that a unit was ready for Tiffany and she only needed to show up to get the key and sign the lease. Sandy and Darrell Logan, CPD Specialist in Kansas City, KS, picked up Tiffany Wagner, her 5 year-old son, Kyle, and her cousin, to move them, and their belongings to a 3-bedroom unit. In addition, ARC donated food. The joy of the situation was experienced by all � Tiffany's newborn child would not have to come home to a shelter.

On Wednesday morning, October 19th, (four days before her due date, and on the original inspection date), Sandy Freeman ("Miss Sandy"), was called with the news that Tiffany had delivered a son earlier that morning. "Miss Sandy" was not surprised with the news � she had been shopping with Tiffany the night before for baby items, a mattress and sheets.

Public/private partnerships do work, but sometimes staff must go beyond its written guidelines and become personally involved with one family at a time.

 
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