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Gay Houston Opens It Heart To Katrina Victims


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Gay Houston Opens It Heart To Katrina Victims

by 365Gay.com Newscenter Staff

Posted: September 2, 2005 3:00 pm ET

(Houston, Texas) Thousands of Houston gays had intended to leave tonight for New Orleans to celebrate Southern Decadence, instead, they're lining up to help members of New Orleans' gay community who have fled the ravages of hurricane Katrina.

"There's been a tremendous outpouring of concern and support," Sally Huffer of the Montrose Counseling Center told 365Gay.com.

Huffer said the Houston Gay and Lesbian Switchboard has been inundated with calls from locals offering their homes to people displaced by the hurricane.

"I think people realize that shelters may not be the safest place for LGBT people," Huffer said.

The Center and the Switchboard are coordinating efforts. "We've set up a database of available housing and are continually updating it," she said. "We've even had calls from as far away as Phoenix and Orlando."

The database includes information on whether the temporary housing being offered is in a smoking or non smoking home, if there are pets or if pets are welcome, and accessibility for people who may not be able, for instance, to climb stairs.

The Center is also creating a support group for people who have fled the storm. "These people are under immense stress." Huffer said. "Many of them have lost everything they own. Even living in a shelter can cause stress to a relationship."

Bering Omega, an LGBT organization for people with HIV/AIDS is coordinating food, clothing and meds donations. Some of the New Orleans evacuees escaped with only the clothing on their backs and did not have time to collect their medication.

Tonight, a special Montrose Community meeting will be held at E.J.'s, a popular neighborhood club, to determine what else can be done.

On the weekend a new housing crisis will begin in Houston. People who heeded the advance warning to flee New Orleans filled the city's 65,000 hotel rooms. But, those hotels have already booked those rooms and the hurricane victims will have to leave.

Volunteers from the Center have been visiting every hotel in the city today, meeting with desk clerks and concierges to let them know the Center has a data base of available places to stay.

Some locals have been carrying little rainbow flags or wearing rainbow pins to identify them as gay and have been walking around the outside of the Astrodome to help LGBT victims.

Information on the Montrose Community Center, the Switchboard and Bering Omega is contained in the free weekly gay papers TXT and the Houston Voice available at news boxes throughout the city.

In addition to the most basic needs of food and shelter gays displaced by the hurricane face immense legal problems, the result of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, Louisiana's constitutional amendment banning recognition of same-sex couples, and DOMAs is Alabama and Mississippi. (story)

Gay philanthropist Tim Gill said Friday that the Gay & Lesbian Fund for Colorado will offer a $1 million matching grant to the American Red Cross for hurricane Katrina disaster relief.

Gill, who founded the fund, said it will match individual donations from Coloradans up to $250 through Sept. 25. The effort could raise a total of $2 million for relief, however not all of that would be targeted towards LGBT people affected by the hurricane.

On Monday, Ellen DeGeneres, who was raised in Louisiana, will use her syndicated talk show to raise money for hurricane relief operations.

365Gay.com has set up a special resource page for people wishing to help - or those who need help

Meanwhile, there are few signs of relief for those still trapped in New Orleans.

The National Guard arrived in force Friday with food, water and weapons, churning through the floodwaters in a vast truck convoy with orders to retake the streets and bring relief to the suffering. Sporadic gunfire could still be heard in the city, and bodies continue to pile up on streets.

Search and rescue teams continue to hunt for survivors. But, officials say there is no way of knowing when the city can return to normal.

©365Gay.com 2005


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