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Houston hosts
hundreds of LGBT evacuees

Houston hosts
hundreds of LGBT evacuees

Astrodome

Gays and lesbians are among those who have suffered in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, and many have evacuated storm-ravaged New Orleans to find help in Houston, where services have been set up to meet their needs, including access to medications for HIV/AIDS patients and counseling for survivors. Meanwhile, across the country gay groups are scrambling to raise funds for Katrina's victims--gay and straight.

Thousands of National Guardsmen with food, water, and weapons have streamed into Louisiana to bring relief to New Orleans's suffering multitudes and put down the looting and violence. "The cavalry is and will continue to arrive," said one general. The assurances came amid blistering criticism from the mayor and others who said the federal government had bungled the relief effort and let people die in the streets for lack of food, water, or medicine.

Meanwhile, across the country, gay groups are scrambling to raise money for the victims--and provide basic help.

The city of Houston is hosting hundreds of LGBT evacuees from Louisiana and Mississippi. Groups such as the Montrose Counseling Center are working full-throttle to provide such services as getting HIV/AIDS patients medicine. They are also providing counseling services to survivors. On September 6, the center is set to host a support group from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. to help the stranded find ways to manage their stress, grief, and fear.

"Their stay here is for an undetermined period of time as those areas struggle to get power and communication back, flood waters to recede, and start the process of rebuilding what Katrina destroyed in one 24-hour period," said Sally Huffer, community projects specialist for the center. "So many people here don't know what they'll be heading back to, and the images being shown on the television are unsettling, to say the least. The uncertainty and curiosity and fear may be overwhelming, causing stress in relationships and with countless questions."

As a massive relief effort gets under way in response to the overwhelming devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina, many gays and lesbians are asking how they can help. In most cases monetary donations are the best way to show support, but if you happen to live near the affected areas and were untouched by the devastation, you may also want to consider volunteering your time or opening up your home to displaced victims. Here are a couple of gay organizations that are currently coordinating relief efforts:

The Metropolitan Community Church has set up a Katrina Relief Center at www.mccchurch.org/katrina/index.html. The church is gathering "accurate and timely information" in an attempt to provide a conduit for sharing the latest information about the disaster and the relief effort. It has also set up a relief fund where gays and lesbians can send their dollars and is also setting up a means of providing other kinds of assistance as the needs become known.

For more information check out the church's Web site or contact Connie Gilpin at MCC of the Living Spring at region2communications@mccchurch.org. Or contact the Reverend Kurt Krieger at (816) 931-0750; (816) 210-5443; or region2kurt@yahoo.com.

In addition to MCC, the gay-focused Rainbow World Fund has launched a Hurricane Katrina Relief Campaign. The organization has partnered with America's Second Harvest to help the survivors of the hurricane. Donations to the fund will go to provide meals and groceries, transport food to survivors, and secure additional warehouse space to assist food banks in resuming and maintaining operations. One hundred percent of the funds donated to the RWF Hurricane Katrina Relief Fund will go directly toward helping the survivors recover. Donate at www.rainbowfund.org/donate.

Also, the National Youth Advocacy Coalition announced the formation of the Hurricane Katrina LGBT Relief Fund to ensure that LGBT youth and families receive the critical support they need to regain stability in their lives. NYAC is working in partnership with Children of Lesbians and Gays Everywhere, Family Pride Coalition, Mautner Project: The National Lesbian Health Organization, National Black Justice Coalition, and the National Center for Lesbian Rights, among others. Contributions can be made at www.nyacyouth.org. Donors will be able to find out more about the impact of their gifts in the coming weeks on a new blog being launched on the NYAC Web site.

In light of the cancellation of the gay Southern Decadence celebration in New Orleans, which was slated for this weekend, several members of San Francisco's Mardi Gras club, Krewe de Kinque, have organized a Western Decadence benefit for hurricane relief. The event is set for Monday, September 5, 3-7 p.m. at the Edge bar in San Francsico's Castro district. All proceeds will go to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund.

"My family and most all of my relatives have no home to go back to," said Krewe member Stephen Rowell, a native of New Orleans. "[They have] no homes, no jobs, and hardly any hope. We need to do something." Donations can be mailed to Krewe de Kinque at 156 Hancock Street #4, San Francisco, CA 94114, and will be forwarded to the Red Cross. To volunteer or donate prizes to the event, call Gary Virginia at (415) 626-5004.

If your organization is coordinating relief efforts in the aftermath of the hurricane, please contact the editors of The Advocate at news@advocate.com, and we will include you in future postings on Advocate.com. (Advocate.com, AP)

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