For Sylvia Warren and Dwayne Grandison, Katrina evacuees who now live in Stockton, the impact of the disaster has been bad enough. But government services promised to them have proved both inadequate and stressful.
"I came here homeless, and I'm still homeless," said Grandison, 43, who has gone to different agencies but is still without a home. "It's a shame, we try to have hope. It seems it disappears."
Grandison was among several evacuees who expressed their frustration during a press conference at Unity Southern Baptist Church in Stockton on Monday.
Grandison and others complained that too little money has been donated to nonprofits and agencies in Stockton for hurricane relief actually made it to the evacuees.
"We're asking persons who have contributed to give money directly to the Katrina victims here," said Linda Lewis, former director of a New Orleans homeless organization who became an evacuee herself. "We're asking for the agencies getting funds to spend it here."
Lewis, who represents the Stockton-based evacuees, said there about 300 families who moved to Stockton because of Hurricane Katrina.
Others, like Warren, of Mississippi, found work through the Employment Development Department, only to be told she failed to qualify for unemployment when she quit due to emotional strain.
"You don't even know what it's like to be uprooted, and you can't even go back for two years," Warren tearfully told audience members.
But others said San Joaquin County has been very proactive in assisting evacuees. The Red Cross and the San Joaquin Human Services Agency are among a network of agencies which helped evacuees in the area, said Sharon Herrera, HSA's general assistance coordinator.
And while Katrina relief donations are directed into a national system and dispersed by the Red Cross, money is distributed impartially and based on the number of people in the family, said Lee Veselak, director of emergency services for the Red Cross San Joaquin Valley Chapter.
"We really do have a network here in providing for the clients, as many resources as we can possibly give," she said.
She also added that the Red Cross and other agencies and churches have done their best to provide transportation and help evacuees find jobs, among other things.
"It's not so much monetary as it is agencies willing to help," she said.
Herrera said evacuees can find out about what help is available to them if they go to http://www.sjgov.org/oes/disasters/Katrina/Katrina.htm. Also, the Federal Emergency Management Agency will be among those at the Stockton Civic Auditorium this Friday to sign up evacuees for other services.
Community activist Bob Hailey of the Unity Southern Baptist Church announced a fund-raiser that will be held Saturday to raise money specifically for Stockton-based evacuees.
The social event will be held at the Radisson hotel from 8 p.m. to midnight and will provide food, entertainment, and a chance for locals to speak with evacuees.
Lewis said her goal is to coordinate those who provide services needed by evacuees who reside in Stockton.
The fund-raiser will be held at the Radisson Hotel at 2323 Grand Canal St. in Stockton. For more information, call (209) 570-2509.
"A lot of people are sending money to different organizations out of the kindness of their heart, and they don't have a clue," said Lewis. "They really don't understand where those dollars they are contributing really are going."