There is no happier moment for American Red Cross volunteers than when a shelter resident walks out of the facility's doors for good. It may seem counterintuitive at first; but deep down, the objective of operating a relief shelter is to get people out of the shelter as quickly as possible and back on their feet again.
In Baton Rouge, Louisiana, historic flooding caused thousands of people to lose their homes and personal items. The floodwaters affected over 120,000 homes—forcing people into nearby relief shelters. When people first step foot into a relief shelter, they are usually overcome with grief and confusion. The Red Cross and partners, like FEMA, work together to erase the confusion and create a path forward.
Leaving a shelter means that the resident has found a place to live and can start rebuilding what the disaster may have taken away. It means they are becoming self-sufficient once again. As the doors of the relief shelter close behind them for the last time, new ones open.
For Reginald Knighten, his new door opens in Illinois. He will be staying with a friend and hopefully continue his work as a pipe fitter. As he packs up his belongings and gets ready to leave the shelter for good, he comments on what it feels to be ready to take this next step.
"I'm excited," said Reginald. "I don't like staying [in a shelter]. I'm really excited to head to Illinois and get things back on track."
Reginald's story is one of many. As floodwaters recede, so will the number of residents in Red Cross and community-operated shelters. And that is a good thing. The Red Cross hopes to never see these people in a relief shelter again—unless they are donning their own red Disaster Relief vest.