Wednesday, September 07, 2005

EDITORIAL >> Evacuees get welcome here

The one bright spot after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina is the response Arkansans have shown thousands of people who fled here to escape the storm.

Arkansans have welcomed thousands of people from Louisiana and Mississippi and invited them into their homes and churches and fed them and enrolled them in their schools.
Restaurants have given away meals to hundreds of people at no charge, while others have received cash and clothing and even jobs. State agencies will surely take care of their needs for many weeks, possibly for several months.

The evacuees drove up here last weekend with little notice, but you couldn’t miss their presence this week as they filled up motels. Few of them will return anytime soon to their hometowns, since those hardly exist anymore.

These refugees are glad they’re alive, having lost almost everything they own and no doubt many lost relatives who were left behind.

Refugee children are enrolled in almost every school district in the state, including those in our communities, and have been made welcome. But the families’ situation is getting more desperate as they run out of money and max out their credit cards. They will need food and clothing and jobs and schooling for their children well into the fall and possibly into winter and beyond.

There’s no way to tell how many refugees from the hurricane are staying inside our borders, but more are on the way. Gov. Huckabee announced Friday that as many as 20,000 new refugees are on the way, and a quarter of them will be housed at Fort Chaffee at Fort Smith.
However long their stay, let’s make them feel at home.