Thursday, September 15, 2005

Hospital Workers in Shelters

ALEXANDRIA, LA.--The Veterans Administration (VA) closed facilities in New Orleans and Gulfport, Miss., after the storm. The agency has offered to put dislocated employees to work in its other facilities, so employees are scattered around the Southeast in Jackson, Miss., Houston, Tex., and Arkansas -- anywhere they can find an open VA hospital or office.

Many VA employees from New Orleans are still being housed in shelters in the Alexandria area. According to Roger Bennett, president of AFGE Local 1972 at the VA Hospital in Alexandria, 224 employees are staying at the Nazarene Church Camp and the Sacred Heart Church. Many others who were originally sheltered in Alexandria have moved on to other cities.

All told, Alexandria is housing about 9,500 people who are homeless after the storm.

When Katrina hit, the VA employees in Alexandria prepared food, washed clothes, and set up makeshift shelters for the evacuees. In the days that followed, the volunteers started to drive the victims on errands, since what many New Orleanians needed most was a ride to file an insurance claim or shop for food. Bennett says that housing is a huge problem.

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