Agencies helping evacuees staying in city|[11/3/05]

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 3, 2005

The needs of hurricane evacuees who have decided to make Vicksburg their home are changing – with groups already at the forefront adjusting to meet them.

Assistance with utility bills, paying rent, deposits on apartments and general advice on seeking employment are now the chief needs of evacuees who have decided to make Vicksburg and Warren County their home, United Way of West Central Mississippi Executive Director Barbara Tolliver said.

To that end, the local United Way chapter has hired Anita Youngblood to be its point person on the changing needs.

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”If someone has secured an apartment, then we can help them with the first month’s rent or the deposit. We can also verify information with potential landlords to help get people in the apartment,” Youngblood said.

The agency can also provide vouchers for purchasing needed items, primarily furniture, Youngblood said.

The group’s energized efforts are an outgrowth of a hurricane relief grant from United Way of America totaling nearly $200,000 that the local chapter received two weeks ago.

Housing was a main focus of efforts by Living Word Baptist Church and still is, said pastor Steve Duncan.

&#8220We have been a referral source for the evacuees we are still working with. Many have gone on to find jobs on their own as a result,” Duncan said.

Duncan has also contacted the Minority and Small Business Development Division of the Mississippi Development Authority to advise them on opportunities.

&#8220There are a few who have strong business ideas,” Duncan said.

Additionally, First Presbyterian Church has expanded an already extensive aid network to victims of Katrina on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

Seven sites manned by church members and an ever-shifting list of volunteers from around the nation have been established at churches on the coast to help move a million-dollar list of donated supplies to the most affected areas.

&#8220Right now, it’s equipment like chainsaws, extension cords, nails and drywall to rebuild houses that we’re moving,” said the Rev. Steve Bryant, who has organized numerous truckloads of supplies to the three coastal counties since the week after the storm.

As for civic clubs, the Vicksburg Lions Club continues to refer evacuees staying in the area for eye exams and, in some cases, help purchase eyeglasses.

&#8220We have referred 68 people as of today,”said vice president Roy Turcotte, who provided a presence at the convention center shelter for the effort.

The local club also received a $3,000 check this week from the Milford Lions Club of Dover, Del. to help cover the costs of the referrals and to shore up the rest of the club’s charity schedule for the year.