Evacuees from the Gulf Coast are apparently headed to Iowa. As many as a thousand homeless hurricane victims are headed to Iowa, but details about their arrival and just how many may arrive aren’t yet available. Local workers are preparing as if they’ll be here later today. Sleeping cots have been set up on the State Fairgrounds, in the air conditioned Varied Industries Building. The nearby 4-H building will be used as a processing center, to take down the names of those who come, give them a quick medical checkup and determine what kind of government assistance they may need. The refugees will stay no more than 48 hours in their temporary home on the State Fairgrounds. The American Red Cross will provide temporary housing grants so they can move into a hotel room or other stop-gap accommodations. Last Friday, Governor Tom Vilsack said the ultimate goal will be to help many former Gulf State residents move into government-subsidized low- and moderate-income housing or into the homes of Iowans who have signed up to host hurricane victims. Plans have been laid to accept as many as two-thousand hurricane evacuees at the Iowa State Fairgrounds, perhaps later today (Tuesday). “If you come to the Varied Industries Building, it’s a veritable sea of cots,” says Lieutenant Colonel Greg Hapgood, spokesman for the Iowa National Guard. Hapgood says many state agencies have people on the fairgrounds who have set up various processing stations to help the hurricane victims with a variety of problems, from health care needs to schooling for their kids. The rub right now is the Federal Emergency Management Agency has told Iowa officials the hurricane victims are headed this way, but not when they’ll arrive. Nevertheless, both state government agencies and non-profit groups like the Red Cross are standing by to receive the refugees. “We hope to have them here and processed out of the fairgrounds and to a more, you know, semi-permanent type of housing within the first 48 hours that they’re here,” Hapgood says. “It is an arduous task to process that many people and to find them some semi-permanent housing here in Iowa within 48 hours…If it takes longer, so be it, but the most important thing that we can say is that the people (who) come here (who) have had these hardships, they will be treated with the utmost respect and dignity. We’ll make this an absolutely positive experience for them and we’re ready to take care of their every need.” The guard has set up showers and there are several “canteens” set up around the fairgrounds to feed the masses.
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