Shelter For Tornado Victims Closes

It has been more than three weeks since a deadly EF5 tornado destroyed a third of Joplin, Mo., and killed 153 people. Aid rushed into the city and people found immediate comfort from the outpouring of support from complete strangers who came to Joplin by the hundreds.

But now there is worry as organizations and companies move away from the recovery phase.

The Red Cross is closing its shelter today at Missouri Southern State University. The Joplin Globe reports the agency is under no pressure from the university to leave. However, some families are unsure of where to turn next.

KSPR television reports the Red Cross is moving its shelter to Webb City Junior High School that won’t be in use during the summer when kids are out of school. Yet some families are feeling pressure to move on with their lives.

A total of 59 people are still living in a makeshift shelter set up by the disaster relief agency. Some of them are having trouble finding a place to live that will cover their budgets. Others don’t want to live in FEMA trailers. A Red Cross official told the Globe he wondered why some of the residents of the shelter haven’t made appropriate phone calls to get aid checks from various government entities.

Several questions arise out of this situation.

Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie donated $500,000 to the Community Foundation of the Ozarks. Home Depot gave $1 million to the long-term recovery of the area. Wal-Mart did the same with $1 million.

Where is all of this money going? The immediate needs of humans are food, water, clothing and shelter. There’s plenty of free food throughout the city and tons of bottled water donations. I’ve seen clothes strewn about an abandoned parking lot for people to pick through.

So the one thing missing in this equation is shelter. Some of the fortunate souls who had home insurance have already settled into other homes. Elderly or single parents who have kids usually have a lean budget if their apartment was destroyed or if they were renting.

And now five dozen people don’t know where to go next.

With all of the charity going around, surely some rental properties can afford a charitable donation. Pittsburg, Kan., and even Springfield, Mo., surely has some apartments run by larger corporations that can afford to waive the first month’s rent and deposit until families can settle into a new place. Making that kind of donation is a tax deduction no matter if you are a corporation or individual.

How could there possibly be no homes for these people when the housing market is a bust and there are homes for sale everywhere?

The Red Cross also makes a point. After three weeks of living in a gymnasium on cots, it’s time to move on to something else. Surely FEMA has been by there and other charities have known about their needs for some time.

Let’s assume for a moment all 60 people live on their own. They need a place that rents an apartment for $500 per month. That’s only $30,000 and the aforementioned organizations donated $2.5 million collectively.

Is the rent really too dang high?

No matter what the circumstances are, if someone can’t find permanent shelter in three weeks, there’s a problem somewhere. With all the donations coming in, where is the money going to help these people? Why do these people still have to worry about getting into a shelter?

No one needs food or clothing any more. They need cars, housing and jobs. Yet no one seems to be willing to step up for them and help. It’s not their fault the tornado ripped their lives apart.

William Browning, a lifelong Missouri resident, writes about local and state issues for the Yahoo! Contributor Network. Born in St. Louis, Browning earned his bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Missouri. He currently resides in Branson.