Preparing for resettlement

Church offers to share its strategies as it awaits Louisiana family
November 1, 2005

The Rev. Maurice “Reese” Friedman, former Air Force chaplain, spent two decades responding to disasters and training for “preparedness” in hurricane-battered Florida. Today, he is putting that skill to use, and he’s got his whole congregation signed on with him.

The Church of the Holy Spirit, on the outskirts of San Antonio where Friedman is vicar, awaits its first evacuee family. With a donated 27-foot RV that parishioners have filled with supplies, clothing and food, the congregation hopes to resettle a family next door to the church. A volunteer “real estate coordinator” also is trying to find low-cost or free suites and apartments in hotels and apartment complexes nearby for additional families.

“Initially, we were going to have people in our homes, but EMM [Episcopal Migration Ministries] discourages that for a whole bunch of reasons,” said Friedman. “So we are shifting our focus. The first set of people will come into the trailer.” After discussions with EMM Director Richard Parkins, Friedman is convinced that working through EMM and Episcopal Relief and Development is the best course. “The key is to create independence for the families, not dependence,” he stressed.

The first family had been selected and was to be transported to Holy Spirit from a shelter in Louisiana when Hurricane Rita struck and the family was evacuated once more. At the end of September, EMM still did not know where the family had been taken and was trying to find them.

Friedman wants to make his carefully organized disaster plan and resettlement strategy available to any other church that would like to try the same ministry. He put together a “multiple interdisciplinary team” that includes doctors, nurses, psychologists, educators, insurance and real estate agents. The 14-member committee coordinators housing, transportation and pastoral care as well as medical, legal, financial and child-care services. To learn more about his plan and to see his “to do” list, e-mail him at holyspiritchurch@earthlink.net.