Community chips in for shelters

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Let’s step back to a different era — such as the 1930s. Have you ever seen pictures from those days? Think back to them and see beyond the people and the clothing. Seriously study the backgrounds of those black and white photos to see images of shacks, sheds, and lean-tos. Physical shelters during the Great Depression.

Depressing? Yes. Pictures of poverty-stricken places and people. The email goes on to talk about real need. Need for basic survival. It compares their situation then to ours now. Many of us are so much more fortunate than we actually think we are — especially in comparison to people who experience poverty or homelessness.

Many people in our community provide “shelter” of one kind or another. Although we don’t have a homeless or victim shelter in Madison County, our neighbors in Huntsville, Conroe and Bryan share their resources.

During times of disaster, our community bands together and helps provide shelter for our own citizens, as well as those who may be victims of the disaster from other communities. Local churches have graciously opened their doors to become shelters during hurricanes and other incidents.

Community organizations have contributed food, clothing, and essentials for victims who were fleeing their own homes. Our schools have provided a place to shelter people and the fairgrounds have been used to house animals and serve as a comfort station for responders and victims.

Community facilities, parking lots and government facilities have served as PODs — Points of Distribution for food, water and ice. Through all of these efforts, people have helped other people with the basic necessities to survive.

The Office of Emergency Management works with local churches, agencies, schools, and volunteers to assure that we have shelters available when needed for emergencies. The American Red Cross is active in our community and provides temporary relief when disaster strikes — whether it’s a single-family disaster like a house fire, or a disaster affecting hundreds or thousands of people.

The Salvation Army is also very active in our community and assists during times of need in many ways, too, providing shelter and food for victims of disasters and everyday tragedies.

According to our emergency management plan, citizens who are seeking shelter during times of disaster should be directed to the county courthouse first — if it is safe to travel. Employees and volunteers will register them and assign them to a certain shelter and/or other services they may need.

Currently, Sharon Phelps and Beverly Plumlee head up our shelter registration volunteers. Many other volunteers also give of their time and energy to help others, and we truly appreciate their service!

If you or your organization, church, or other group would like more information on how you can work with us to plan and prepare for sheltering, please give our office a call at (936) 348-3810. Be safe out there.

Shelly Butts is Emergency Management Coordinator for Madison County.

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