Friday, September 09, 2005

Support Systems for People Hosting Families

As someone offering to house an evacuee family, I find myself
considering the long-term impact of doing so. I don’t think that people
will be able to return to New Orleans for a long time because it is now
a Superfund site. I am concerned that people are being asked to help for
up to six months when the evacuees won’t have anywhere to go in six
months. Why aren’t we asking for longer-term solutions? I am assuming
that this could be longer term, so that I won’t harbor resentment when
it is. Or feel guilty that I want people to leave who can’t leave.

We need to build support systems for longer-term arrangements. I will
have to spend a few thousand dollars to get my house into a comfortable
state if we are to have an extra family in the space. I have a rich
life, but I am poor. I have a start-up small business, a young child, an
unemployed ex-husband. We want to offer what we have - lots of space,
right here in Boston. I’ve made arrangements for a child/children to
attend the same private school my daughter attends. But we don’t really
have money. We’ll figure it out. But is this kind of monetary need
stopping others from offering? Can we find grant money for them?

Then there are long-term considerations of helping people who have just
been through quite trauma. How will they cope? Will they want to go
back? Will they want to stay in their host communities? How do they
build community? And how do they heal? Who provides for all the care
that will be required to get people back on their feet? Where do we turn
when the host families are impacted by the trauma?

The questions go on. So many of us have an instinctual response to offer
what we can. Yet, we don’t really know what the long-term impact of that
offer will be. Can we start talking about this as a long-term issue and
not a short-term one? I believe that if we did, people would more
seriously consider what they can offer. If we talk about and begin to
create financial and community support systems, many people may be more
willing to help.