The American Red Cross has been in Louisiana helping for more than a week and our work is just beginning. Red Cross workers are providing shelter, food and comfort right now, and will continue to be there in the weeks and months as ahead, helping residents recover from this massive disaster. So many of us have been touched by the recent floods that devastated the area —whether directly as residents or indirectly as concerned citizens with big hearts. At this crucial hour, timely and accurate information is critical. Here are the top questions we’ve gathered from social media, as well as answers that we hope will be helpful.
1. I need to stay in a shelter. What about my pet(s)?
We love our pets – they are members of our families. Keeping pets in shelters can sometimes pose health and safety issues, though, since we can’t always guarantee that our companion animals will get along or that fellow residents won’t have serious allergies. So the Red Cross, a proud member of the National Animal Rescue and Sheltering Coalition (NARSC), works with animal rescue groups to ensure that shelter residents have a place to house their pets.
The Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry (LDAF) relocated pets housed in a mobile pet shelter located at the Baton Rouge River Center to the Dixon Correctional Institute (DCI) in Jackson, Louisiana. This was an effort toward better long term recovery and for the health of the pets as officials work toward housing solutions for those in the shelter. The Red Cross is working closely with LDAF to support shelter residents during this stressful time when they are away from their animals. The LDAF is helping to coordinate daily visits until families can be reunited full-time with their pets. It’s important to note that LDAF is responsible for the transport and sheltering of pets in disasters. Learn more on their website.
2. My home has been destroyed by floods. What should I do first?
We’re so sorry to hear this. Please register as soon as possible for federal disaster assistance with FEMA. You can apply for aid at disasterassistance.gov, call 1-800-621-3362 or visit a Disaster Recovery Center.
3. I am in need of supplies – from cleanup kits to diapers.
Please give the American Red Cross Disaster Hotline a call at 855-224-2490. They can help direct you to where supplies are available in your area. Take care and please hang in there!
4. I want to volunteer to help Louisiana.
You are awesome! You can learn all about joining our volunteer team at www.redcross.org/louisiana.
5. I would like to donate clothing/supplies/food.
Thank you so much for your generosity. Here’s a great list of options if you’d like to help Louisiana flood victims.
6. Is it true that the Red Cross doesn’t allow people to pray in shelters?
We sincerely apologize for any confusion around the issue of prayer in Red Cross shelters. Faith is an important part of helping people recover after a disaster, and people in our shelters are always welcome to pray, read their bibles and gather among themselves–we simply ask that they are respectful of others. There are hundreds of people of different values and faiths sharing a large space in our shelters, and we want to respect the privacy of everyone.
If a shelter resident would like to speak with a spiritual advisor, the Red Cross can help to facilitate that connection. When needed, we can also provide private spaces for residents to pray and engage in religious activities with their preferred spiritual advisors.
There are numerous rumors circulating on social media. We can definitively state that none of our Red Cross shelter managers have received reports about such incidents occurring. If anyone staying in a Red Cross shelter is asked not to pray, please notify the shelter manager immediately. We take allegations like this very seriously and will take immediate action.
The Red Cross follows the guidelines set forth by the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster to provide appropriate and respectful disaster spiritual care. Through our Disaster Spiritual Care program, trained Red Cross workers bolster hope and resilience for the survivors and their families by helping people draw upon their own spiritual resources – values and faith – in the midst of their pain, regardless of their faith tradition.
You can also read an article on Snopes.com, addressing this question.
7. I’ve heard rumors about food distribution from the Red Cross.
Please know we are taking any reports of insufficient food distribution occurrences very seriously. It’s our practice to put our shelter residents first, and we apologize for situation where this may not have been the case.
The Red Cross strives to provide nutritious, well-balanced meals both emergency shelters and through our response vehicles which are fanning out through affected neighborhoods to serve people cleaning up their homes.
We appreciate that this is a challenging and difficult time for the residents of Louisiana, and the American Red Cross is committed to do all that it can to support those affected.