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WLOX-TV - The News for South Mississippi: Hancock County Residents Protest Cafe Closure

Some Hancock County residents marched at the make-shift city hall in Bay St. Louis on Wednesday calling for government help as the volunteer help begins to dwindle. After this weekend, several relief efforts for food and supplies will shut down.

Some people say the talk around town is that FEMA ordered the distribution sites to close so they don't hurt struggling local businesses. Danielle Thomas found out exactly why some of the volunteers will soon pack up.

Each day thousands of people head to the Waveland Cafe for a hot meal. After three months, the Rainbow Family of Living Life says it's time to spread their message of peace and love elsewhere.

"I think even like a month ago everyone in our camp was in agreement or at least the people who had been there the longest were in agreement that it was time for us to move on to other projects in our lives," Rainbow Robin said.

Next door to the cafe is a distribution site run by a coalition of Texas churches. They also plan to leave town after Thanksgiving. Stephen Heleman works with the churches.

"We have worked well with FEMA and the EOC and county officials. There's not any pressure to leave or anything like that"

Learning that tired volunteers and not FEMA is closing the distribution site did not make protesters any less angry. They understand volunteers need to get back to their lives. What they don't understand why the government isn't stepping up to fill the gap.

"They feed a 1,000 to 1,500 people a day including this man's wife who has cancer, who has nothing to cook out of," said Hancock County resident Ricky Dinon.

"The federal government needs to step up and spend the money to feed our people here to help. To heck with Iraq and rebuilding Iraq. They need to spend the billion dollars a day that they're spending in Iraq in the United States Gulf Coast that has been devastated."

The problem some say is that many people in Hancock County can't cook because they live in tents or don't have a ride to a grocery store.

"Not just Waveland but people just outside the city limits of Waveland, Claremont, Lakeshore Pearlington that have become accustomed to getting what they need at the Waveland Cafe and the Waveland Center. It's going to be tough for them to have to come all the way up this far," said Bay St. Louis Mayor Eddie Favre. "Most of them with no transportation. It's going to be difficult."

A FEMA spokesperson said Wednesday the agency feels smaller distribution sites and the relief efforts provided by the Red Cross and the Salvation Army should compensate for the Waveland Cafe closing.

by Danielle Thomas