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Famine, then Feast of Aid in Gulf Town

In Pearlington, Miss., volunteer John Green of England shows the contents of a "shelter box" to Donald and Danielle Vince, who lost their house in Hurricane Katrina.
Evie Stone, NPR
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In Pearlington, Miss., volunteer John Green of England shows the contents of a "shelter box" to Donald and Danielle Vince, who lost their house in Hurricane Katrina.
Green assembles a dome tent supplied to hurricane victims as temporary shelter by his group.
Evie Stone, NPR /
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Green assembles a dome tent supplied to hurricane victims as temporary shelter by his group.

Pearlington, Miss., had no help for days after Katrina struck the Gulf Coast. Now, the town that had no relief is filled with workers from the federal government and charitable organizations.

Standing outside the Hancock County Emergency Operations Center, Betty Brunner says she quit as a Red Cross volunteer, frustrated with the initial delay in getting help to the area. She now works with the county.

"They didn't get the food when they first needed it," Brunner says. "There was some people that told me they didn't eat for four days. People would come out of the bayous, come up out of the bayous walking, and ask people to take them into a shelter. Those people needed food immediately…"

A local elementary school has become a warehouse, where pallets loaded with cots, diapers, water and food are assembled. There are also plastic storage bins, each holding a pair of three-room tents, collapsible water jugs, and fun kits for the kids.

"They provide shelter where there is no shelter," says Shelter Box volunteer John Green, who brought the kits over from England. "They provide shelter where people want to go back home and rebuild. This tent can go up in a very small space, provide accommodation for eight to 10 people while people are rebuilding their homes. Because we've found that in the three days that we've been here people are so desperate, so keen, to rebuild their homes…"

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Howard Berkes
Howard Berkes is a correspondent for the NPR Investigations Unit.