Saturday, September 10, 2005

The Red Cross report...and other paradoxical discoveries

Thursday I went to the Red Cross in Tallahassee, where I'm currently staying. I hadn't imagined there would be thousands of evacuees here too, so I was startled to discover a long long already stagnated in the morning sun. Actually, when I called the Red Cross that morning, they gave me specific instructions on where to go, and when I arrived I found that they center had moved. I was ready to leave but a volunteer took me by the arm and told me she would take me there. When I saw the long line, I started turning to bolt, but the woman stopped me again and said, "You have to go into that line, it is the only way you'll get help. FEMA isn't going to help you."

So we stood in line and watched as a wealthy blonde woman fanned herself beneath a tent the staff had set up, seemingly for her, since nothing else was going on beneath it.

Once we got inside, they squeezed us into a too small room with too few seats, where were assigned numbers and told to wait. I estimated three hours at the pace they were going, but someone pulled me out of the back of the room saying I looked tired. This didn't seem fair, but I wasn't complaining. I then was put through the intact process, which was screwed up because I don't have an address and my ID address is different from where I was actually living. When they were done they had a report on the loss of my home and possessions, but they didn't have the actual location, which I scribbled across the form for them.

They gave me a voucher for clothes from Goodwill and a voucher for $360 that could only be cashed at a Walmart 11 miles away. When I asked if there would be more assistance later, I was told: "We don't know. Watch TV and if there's an announcement, come back." What if I don't have a TV? "That's why were trying to get people hotel rooms."

Then they sent me to apply for food stamps, which was another application that was fouled up because in order to get the card you need to have an address. (The same is true for the potential direct deposit of funds into victims accounts--most of us left our banking info at home. Duh.)

I also looked into taking classes at Florida State while I'm here. The university is very accomodating about it, but the Department of Education hasn't approved financial aid for displaced students...even if they had been awarded aid at their own school. So we can register for courses, but we may have to pay for them with our Red Cross money, which will cover about one credit at most schools. Not even that at some.

6 comments:

Josh Russell said...

The first time I heard that relief money was going to be given via direct deposit, it became clear to me that things are being set up to screw the very poor: has no one at FEMA, etc ever lived in a neighborhood where people cash their paychecks at the grocery because the DO NOT HAVE bank accounts? I guess not. So to get help you need: 1) a car, 2) a bank account, 3) and an ID with an address that matches your home address. Problem soved for Bush: no one in the US has all three.

reader of depressing books said...

what classes? I thought you were done with grad school.

SS

kfoz said...

I have a few credits left for my PhD in creative writing. So I figure if I don't have anything else to do...

reader of depressing books said...

where? FSU or USM?

kfoz said...

The degree is from USM...or will be if I can finish it. I had been commuting from New Orleans.

Maxwell Mccauley said...

Good blog. Keep it running!