Remnants of IKE are still evident with debris on the sides of Interstate-45 leading into the island. The task of returning Galveston to any sense of normalcy is almost overwhelming. The American Red Cross is a huge fixture now. A “tent city” is thriving on the grounds at Alamo Elementary located at 53rd and Avenue N and a half. Traci Winfrey is sight manager there.
Winfrey: “We are Clara Barton Village.”
Hernandez: “How many white tents do we have on this compound?”
Winfrey: “There are currently four; one serves as our dining facility, the other three as dormitories. We do everything from dormitory management to our mental health element is here to talk people through this crisis. We have our health services function here to help with the medical needs, then we have folks that do supply, and we have people that do our registration, as well as just general help that do everything under the sun.”
Yolanda Richards grew up in the neighborhood and attended Alamo Elem. She’s returned as a resident, along with her husband, 13 kids and 7 grandchildren. She’s also a brand new mother.
“Red Cross was the only place who would take my newborn baby, and my family in. Other churches would give us clothes or something, or feed us, but they would not accept us. Red Cross took us all in and assured us this was our home. I mean, I’m sad, because Red Cross, they shift people and bring new people. Well, they’re getting ready to shift my family today. I’ve never met these people from Red Cross, but hey, you know, I’m feeling double loss now. I feel like Ike’s hitting all over again.”
Lake Jackson Congressman Ron Paul was at the “tent city.” He too calls Galveston’s recovery slow.
“I know if I were the one that was involved, I’d be pretty nervous about it all, because I’d want it to go much, much faster, and it just seems so overwhelming. I actually am going away more optimistic now than I was before, because I think we’re moving the right direction.”
In a perfect environment, the Clara Barton facility might be like heaven, but the reality is that shelter residents and Red Cross volunteers like Traci Winfrey are being tested.
Hernandez: “What makes you want to get up every morning and do what you do?”
Winfrey: “I really feel like it’s my oppportunity to give back. At a time in my life, I think much is the same in everybody’s life. There’s someone that reaches out to you, and helps you through a time in your life when you need it, and for me, this is my time to be able to give back.”
Pat Hernandez, KUHF…Houston Public Radio News.