The busses took off for Louisiana, and initially arrived in Alexandria where the Black Caucus was trying unsuccessfully to get an old army base opened for refugees. We quickly learned that none of the big organizations was going to actually accomplish anything, they'd just rather talk. Withing a week or so, it became apparent that large areas were being left with zero help, and with that in mind, everyone headed to Waveland, Miss. So that became the destination. We thought that during times of anarchy, only anarchists know how to get anything done. :-)
Our medical and kitchen crew quickly merged with the church groups there. We took care of medical problems and feeding people, and they setup the supply chain and distribution center. There were also a few other church groups, like the Bastrop Christian Outreach Center, and the Seventh Day Adventists also plugging in. Together it was named the "Waveland Cafe".
At the height of the disaster, the kitchen was feeding 2-3,000 people per meal, and treating people at the volume of a small hospital. We became the largest relief center for the flood, and fed everybody from FEMA, the Red Cross, the army, the National Guard, and many other law enforcement agencies. Many of the locals were setting up tents all around, and we were the sole support system for thousands of people in a town that was wiped off the face of the earth. Pictures can barely express the destruction.
About 5 weeks after Katrina, we learned the other FEMA and Red Cross relief centers were closing, and that people were starting to trickle back into New Orleans. So a small crew of 10 of us took off for New Orleans to setup a new center downtown. We picked a small, 1 block square park and playground know as Washington Square Playground. This had us only a few blocks from the lower 9th Ward, and other hard hit areas. The park is the 2nd oldest in New Orleans, so it was high enough to stay out of the flood, and only suffered wind damage.
Initially we had to use chainsaws to cut a path into the park through all the downed trees and large branches. First a space for the kitchen was cleared, as we also had to feed ourselves. Then a space for the supplies, another for medical purposes, and we started providing a service almost right away. All our tables, chairs, shelving, etc... was built onsite out of salvaged materials. We wound up literally living off the land of the city, with the neighbors that had come back helping us. We are called the "Welcome Home Cafe" now. A local Teamsters hall is across the street from our park, and they saw they now had a chance to help their own neighborhood recover. They adopted us, and started bringing us ice, and two semi-truck loads of food a day. A Food Not Bombs group from Hartford, Connecticut plugged in right away as a productive part of the crew, and we also received much support from the Common Ground folks that had set up a medical clinic across the river. The Barefoot Doctors Academy supplied nurse midwives to help take care of the children or pregnant mothers.
This is now the only "full-service" relief center in New Orleans near the devastated areas, and has quickly also picked up the support of the local National Guard, who have been a great help with the security issue of being downtown. One amazing thing has been the support of diverse groups like the Guard and the Teamsters with a bunch of hippies. We've also become part of the neighborhood, with the neighbors helping us help them.
We also put in a large water filtration system that can process 1,000 gallons an hour, and our medical clinic is staffed with midwives, in addition to our other doctors and nurses. More experienced Rainbow Family kitchen crews are arriving, as the operation is scaling up for the increased demand as people are returning home. Many still have no propane or electricity, so we are their only source of food.
The lower 9th Ward is still closed, and people are only allowed to go in during the day if they are residents. Since there are no services, and many of these folks are lower-income, they have no where to go. Neither FEMA or the Red Cross has any plans for where thousands of people can stay or be taken care of. Everyone wishes they'd figure something out, but till then we're here to feed and treat people. Long after FEMA and the Red Cross is gone, The Rainbow Family will probably still be here.
For anyone wishing to donate, here is the info for the two relief centers operated by the Rainbow Family.
Donations for the Waveland Cafe can go to http://tinyurl.com/cqdky. This page is labeled as the "Rainbow Water System, Pipes, Fittings & Filters" page, but at this time has been used for this relief effort.
Donations for the Welcome Home cafe in New Orleans can go through The Barefoot Doctors' Academy, a 501c(3), that is providing midwifery care to. Funds can be earmarked for the medical clinic, the midwives, food supplies, or the general fund. That address is:
Hurricane Relief Project
897 S. Eugene St.
Baton Rouge, Louisiana 70806
For more information, contact: Dee Anne Domnick @ (808)987-8213 after or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org