Twenty people from New Orleans were flown to Des Moines yesterday (Friday), but Governor Tom Vilsack says in total, more than five-hundred people have immigrated to Iowa from Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama since Hurricane Katrina struck. “All of us may be surprised in terms of how many people may actually be in the state,” Vilsack says.
The Red Cross has helped 516 individuals who have migrated from the hurricane zone to Iowa. The number includes the 20 who arrived yesterday, as well as the 50 people who’ve shown up in Iowa City to enroll at the University of Iowa. Just after noon on Friday, 18 adults, a three-year-old girl and a teenage boy arrived in Des Moines from New Orleans. “The individuals who arrived in our state by plane did not know they were coming to the State of Iowa when they got on the plane. I don’t know what the justification for that is. I think that’s kind of unfortunate…but we’re going to do everything we possibly can to make their time here, their visit here, their home here for as long as they want to be part of our state as pleasant and as profitable and as good as it can be.” Those who arrived yesterday (Friday) were given a Red Cross debit card and a state debit card so they can buy food. Folks were also enrolled in Medicaid, government health care insurance. Vilsack says one of the young women who was going through the lineup of services was asked by a greeter what she’d like. “She looked at the greeter and said ‘I want a job,'” Vilsack says. Three of the people who arrived yesterday from New Orleans required medical attention. One is still hospitalized. “In addition to the 20 individuals, we also welcomed several pets to our state — a couple of dogs and a cat,” Vilsack says.
Iowa’s black churches have taken a central role in welcoming hurricane victims from the south to Iowa, and Reverend Keith Ratliff, who is also the chairman of Iowa’s NAACP chapter, says “Iowans have already come from all races, religions and economic backgrounds to help and assist,” Ratliff says. “May we continue to show around the country and the world that Iowans believe in people and that in our own Iowa way, we’ve tried to lend a helping hand to our fellow Americans and to our brothers and sisters and that we tried to let our little light shine.”
Those who arrived by plane in Iowa yesterday stayed overnight in hotel rooms, as arranged and paid for by the Red Cross until permanent homes can be arranged.