Sunday, September 25, 2005

Katrina's sister Rita 

I apologize for the lapse in communication. Preparations for Katrina's sister Rita took priority over the past few days.

The community technology center (CTC) at the Reliant Arena (adjacent to the Astrodome) was shut down on Tuesday as the remaining Katrina evacuees at the Astrodome complex were moved to Arkansas for safety and out of Rita's way. Rita's damage, while significant in the areas affected the most, could have been catastrophic if the storm were to have made a direct hit on Galveston and then Houston. Over 5.5 million people live in the Greater Houston area. The only damage Technology For All (TFA) sustained were a few bent antennas on the TFA-Wireless project. TFA's CTC at Mission Milby is intact. The other CTCs in the area sustained minimal damage such as missing shingles, broken tree limbs etc. The streets are full of debris from the wind, but that will be cleaned up in a few days.

The task ahead continues to be working with the over 100,000 Katrina evacuees that remain in our city. TFA is committed to providing the leadership to assist and challenge CTCs across the city to assist in this important work. Many of the evacuees have limited literacy and limited computer skills. Thus, many do not have the knowledge, skills and abilities they need to earn a livable wage in the Houston economy. This creates what I believe is both an opportunity and responsibility for community technology centers across the region.

To give you a sense of some of our work over the past several weeks with Katrina evacuees, I have pasted below the excerpt of an email from Jim Forrest, one of our TFA staff members. It illustrates the human side of our Katrina work.

Will Reed

"We are doing OK here. This is the first time I have had time to respond as I have been getting my home, and others secured. On Wednesday morning I decided to remain here at the house. The house has never flooded and I now have all my shutters in place. With all the problems on the freeway it appears that it may have been an OK good decision. The cell phones were almost completely useless on Wednesday but as of later last night (Thursday) the calls are going through.

Now that the storm appears to be heading more to the east of Houston I am feeling a little more comfortable with that decision. I have a generator, plenty of food and everything secured. Jesse, the young man that came home with me is doing great. He was such a big help in getting everything done here. I have finally gotten in contact with his mom in a high school shelter in Covington Louisiana.

Mabel, his mom, is with her semi comatose disabled sister and her 10 month son since the storm. Jesse was finally able to talk with her for the first time in almost two weeks. The last time she saw him he was being air lifted from their home by helicopter. She was being relocated from Covington to Folsom Louisiana yesterday and I have not spoken with her since early yesterday morning. It may be sometime before she is able to have Jesse with her again so I am planning to get him in school as soon as the storm passes.

I also have spoken with the young man that I made friends with earlier in the week, Jerel. He is safe in Houston with his mom and brother at a Holiday Inn near the Astrodome. Mark (thanks Mark for helping Claudia) helped her get additional days and they are going to ride out the storm at the hotel.

I received an email from him regarding his status yesterday afternoon. They have moved to from the 8th floor to the 2nd floor and are going to ride out the storm at the hotel. Jerel sent the email from the hotel computer. It is amazing because he didn't know how to use a computer just 7 days ago and now he is using it to communicate with the world."

I noticed they have opened a Rita Family Messages web site. I plan to update my status information this morning. As I mentioned cell phone service was bad and I was unable to answer the calls............"

I volunteered at the Reliant Arena for three days with social services and mental health. I am a social work grad student at UH. I don't know if I met you, lol, but I did meet someone who helped to make sure that people could use computers.
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