County Executive Andy Spano is requesting that mayors and supervisors throughout Westchester join him in seeking vacant housing units that could be made available to victims of Hurricane Katrina.
In a letter faxed on September 8th, Spano asked that they all report to his offices any housing that could be used for possible relocation of evacuees from the South. The county has been asked to provide a complete list to the New York State Emergency Management Office (SEMO), which is looking for long-term accommodations (perhaps up to two years), he said.
“We don’t know if this housing will ever be needed or used, but we want to be prepared,” Spano said. “We are well aware that many of these people have absolutely nowhere to go and it’s very possible that some could end up here at some point. It’s only right that we should round up our resources and offer everything we can.”
The county itself has 150 emergency housing units available and needs to know if the municipalities can add to that number, he said. An inventory is not being taken of people who have offered rooms in their own homes. Anyone who wants to make that offer should contact the state’s toll-free number, 1-888-7-NYS-AID.
The municipalities are also being asked to provide the county Department of Emergency Services with information concerning any responders, equipment or resources being sent to the hurricane devastated area. It’s important that a centralized record be kept of who and what is in the county to be sure we also maintain adequate coverage here in Westchester in case of emergency, he said.
He noted that people should be discouraged from traveling to the affected areas, especially without credentials or training, because of increasing health hazards and the lack of resources and accommodations.
Spano has also announced the following hurricane-related actions:
• Key county departments such as Social Services, Emergency Services, Health, Mental Health, Public Safety, Seniors and Public Works, have been put on alert and asked to be prepared to supply services should the county get a large influx of victims.
Arrangements have been made so county workers trained for the American Red Cross reserves will continue to get their pay if they are called up.
The new 211 call center will remain open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays to provide information and serve as a clearinghouse for offers of help.
Members of the Westchester Emergency Volunteer Reserves are helping answer the 211 phones, which has extended its hours to accommodate the need. Two members of the Medical Reserve Corps are going down to the stricken area this week.
All donations should be directed to the Red Cross’ Disaster Relief Fund by calling 1-800-725-2769 or visiting www.redcross.org.