It's a staggering number. FEMA says they've dispersed nearly $800 million to Mississippians since Hurricane Katrina ripped through the state. Just after the storm, out-of-area workers manned the Disaster Recovery Centers, also known as DRCs. Now, the centers have a more understanding face with hurricane survivors themselves working to help their fellow south Mississippians.
DRC worker Austin White helped a South Mississippi storm victim apply for assistance from FEMA. White lent a personal touch to the process. After all this Gulfport resident can relate to many of the clients he sees.
"I want to help out. I am a victim of the storm as well as the clients that we deal with everyday, and I'm willing to help out," White said.
DRC worker and Biloxi resident Daryl Knox has also put his personal losses aside so he can help his fellow man at the DRC. "Me personally, I lost my car, my apartment I lived in. Like I said, there's a lot more worse stories out there, with worse conditions that I'm in," Knox said.
In all, 44 people who are local, work at the DRC center on 25th Street in Gulfport, and DRC leaders say there are plenty of reasons for hiring people who live in here in the area.
"It does a couple of things. One, it stimulates the local economy by creating some jobs that otherwise wouldn't be there. Secondly, it saves the federal government some money on hiring locally because they don't have to pay the hotel bills of the people who are coming into the area to do the disaster recovery work," said Tom Nocera of the Small Business Administration.
DRC workers like White and Knox have a personal stake in the work they do. Having been victims themselves, they can help others through their pain; and they know they are helping rebuild South Mississippi one case at a time.