U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., has introduced legislation that would require states to prepare disaster evacuation plans that account for the needs of society's most vulnerable members, including the poor, disabled and elderly.
'It is the duty of our government to keep all Americans safe in times of emergency, especially those in our society who are not always able to help themselves,' Obama stated in a release. 'But in the days and weeks since Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast, it has become overwhelmingly clear that this was not the case.'
Obama's bill would require the Department of Homeland Security to mandate that each state include plans for the evacuation of individuals with special needs during times of emergency. These people would include low-income individuals and families; the elderly; the disabled; and those who cannot speak English. The plans must consider how these people would be evacuated out of the emergency area and how the states would provide shelter, food, and water to these people once they are evacuated. The measure would require that the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security report each state's evacuation plan within one year after the legislation becomes law.
Obama was also joined by 18 other Senate Democrats in a letter to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. In the missive, the Secretary was asked to ensure that all evacuation plans include consideration for those who are considered the most vulnerable. Among other things, Chertoff was urged to consider various items such as sufficient food supplies, a temporary relocation strategy and emergency professionals with adequate training.
Other Katrina-related news:
— 'Chicago LGBTs for Katrina Relief,' a grassroots group organized after Hurricane Katrina, raised more than $5,000 for the shelter and housing needs of LGBT evacuees. The group raised the funds in a one day targeted campaign Sept. 12. Members of the Chicago LGBT community were asked to organize through the informal LGBT networks that exist in most Chicagoland work spaces. Each person was asked to bring a check or to make a donation via the Chicago House Web site. The national organization that was selected to receive the funds is the Hurricane Katrina LGBT Relief Fund, a national coalition of leading LGBT groups from across the nation, formed to ensure that humanitarian aid reaches LGBT people devastated by Katrina. See www.chicagohouse.org .
— The Sept. 9 local bar fundraiser for Hurricane Katrina relief was successful, with a total of $2,306.09 being raised. Little Jim's raised $647.50, Cell Block raised $584.75 ( including $541.75 that they raised Sept. 4 ) , Sidetrack patrons donated $536.84, Roscoe's raised over $200 and North End surpassed $100. Other participating nightspots included Touché, Cocktail, Clark's on Clark, Bucks, Scot's, Spin and Gentry on Halsted.
— In response to Hurricane Katrina, Rainbow World Fund ( RWF ) , a LGBT-based world relief agency, has raised $250,000 in donations to help survivors recover, U.S. Newswire reported. RWF is partnering with America's Second Harvest, the nation's largest food bank network, to provide food aid to the survivors.
— Rosie's For All Kids Foundation, established by former talk-show host Rosie O'Donnell, will implement a four-part plan to help the children of Baton Rouge, La. According to an organizational press release, the foundation will, among other things, collect and deliver books, school uniforms, backpacks, arts-and-craft supplies, board games and sports equipment as well as provide mobile day-care and after-school units.
— Many of the 32,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in or from Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi are at risk of contracting serious illnesses caused by interruptions in their medical treatments as well as by exposure to water-borne pathogens, according to a release from the American Academy of HIV Medicine. The statement also declared that the federal Department of Health and Human Services had yet to announce a plan to guarantee HIV-positive evacuees access to antiretroviral medication and medical care.
— The Resource Center of Dallas is coordinating efforts to provide temporary housing and services to Hurricane Katrina evacuees who are LGBT or are HIV-positive, according to a statement from the facility. The center has offered living space as well as services such as hot meals and even dental care. For additional information, call ( 214 ) 528-0144 or see www.resourcecenterdallas.org .
— The lesbian-owned Chopping Block, a Chicago cooking school, is presenting 'Saturday in New Orleans' on Sept. 24, 10 a.m.-2:30 p.m., at 4747 N. Lincoln. The proceeds from the $125 class fee go to the Red Cross. Call ( 773 ) 472-6700.
— Jimmy Bannos, head chef of Heaven on Seven in Chicago, has invited more than 30 chefs from around the nation to create a tasting menu for an Oct. 6 meal at the McCormick Place Grand Ballroom at 2301 S. Lake Shore. Meals are $50 each and proceeds will be split between the Red Cross and survivors who work in the hospitality industry. Call ( 312 ) 787-4000 to reserve a seat.
— 'Kickin' It for Katrina,' an Oct. 22 kickball tournament, is looking for teams of five to eight players ( in which at least four must be women ) . Each player is required to raise $40 and proceeds go to Habitat for Humanity programs in the Gulf Coast. E-mail email@example.com for details.
— 'Savor: A Wine-Tasting Fundraiser for Katrina Disaster Relief,' is being held at Plush, 1104 W. Madison, Chicago, on Sept. 22, 6:30-9 p.m. The cost is $30. Call ( 773 ) 988-5543 for more info.
— PAWS Chicago has many Gulf Coast animals that were left behind by evacuees—and that are available for adoption. E-mail Dave Barta at firstname.lastname@example.org .