Service centers open Monday in Youngstown and Warren.
By ROGER G. SMITH
VINDICATOR COURTHOUSE REPORTER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Local authorities need to know by noon Tuesday who in the Mahoning Valley has shelter to offer hurricane-displaced Gulf Coast residents.
Meanwhile, central service centers open Monday in Youngstown and Warren to help such people in the Valley now.
About 30 regional emergency management and social service workers decided Friday how to round up housing information and feed it to the state. They also decided on creating central service centers to help displaced storm victims meet their immediate needs.
Any individual, church, business or others that have housing to offer are being asked to dial 211 in Mahoning or Columbiana counties or (880) 427-3606 in Trumbull County by noon Tuesday.
State will be alerted
Staff at those Help Hotline numbers will collect the housing information and pass that on to the state. Ohio is part of the Emergency Management Assistance Compact, a mutual-aid agreement among states. Under EMAC, states send requests to other states, which check their database of available services.
For example, if a Gulf Coast state asks for available housing in Ohio, those in the Mahoning Valley that volunteer shelter may be called upon.
"We have to get it [available housing] through this system or it's going to fall by the wayside," said Walter Duzzny, director of Mahoning County's Emergency Management Agency. "We need to get ahead of this."
Those offering housing are asked to consider that evacuees will need to stay for about six months, he said. Whether payment will be available for those offering housing is unclear, Duzzny said.
This weekend, Columbus, Cleveland and Cincinnati are expected to receive 500 Gulf evacuees divided among the three cities who now are staying in the Houston Astrodome, Duzzny said. There are no other scheduled evacuees assigned to Ohio at the moment, though that easily could change, he said.
Evacuees in Valley now
Nonetheless, there are people from Louisiana and Mississippi in the Mahoning Valley now who are staying with relatives or others but need help, Duzzny said. Others may arrive over the weekend, he said.
A Red Cross official in Mahoning County said the agency is assisting 15 families totaling about 50 people, such as arranging two-week stays at local hotels.
In response, central service centers aimed at meeting all the needs evacuees might have will open in two spots at 8:30 a.m. Monday: The Salvation Army, 1501 Glenwood Ave. in Youngstown; and the One Stop at 147 W. Market St. in Warren.
The Youngstown center will operate from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. The Warren center will operate 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.
The Salvation Army and Red Cross will staff the Youngstown center Monday. By Wednesday, all necessary social service agencies should have representatives there.
The service centers will be much like the centers made available after extensive flooding in the summer of 2003.
Anyone displaced by Hurricane Katrina, whether they are staying with relatives here or ended up in the Valley for other reasons, is being asked to make their way to the service centers, Duzzny said.
Emergency officials in Columbiana County will explore setting up such a center there.