FEMA Out Of Tent City, New Tenants Moving In

Americorps volunteers made a last sweep of the tents in Pass Christian Tuesday afternoon, cleaning them for the next tenants. Those will be volunteers from around the country coming to the Pass to help in relief efforts staying in the tents that once housed up to three hundred people Hurricane Katrina left homeless.

Volunteer Coordinator Margaret Jean Kalif says, "We have 74 tents here and the tents are good size. We can accommodate six to eight people per tent if they're here on a short term basis. With Spring Break, I think we're gonna have a lot of volunteers."

Americorps has run the tent city's day to day operations since it opened last November. They're putting out the welcome mat to other groups.

Ameriacorps Member Jason Vander Weele says, "They're gonna send us some volunteers and we'll put them up in the tents. They'll go out and work with the other organizations, but we'll give them a place to stay here."

Up until now FEMA paid for the food and utilities to keep the village running. It hasn't been cheap, about $25,000 a day. With FEMA pulling out, Kalif says they're looking for ways to foot the bill.

"We've approached the Mississippi Power Company to help defer the cost for the power. The showers will stay. We're gonna try to build more permanent structures, permanent instead of having a port-a-let we're gonna try to have a permanent facility for that and the permanent showers. So the volunteers are helping out with that a lot and if the power company will help with the bill, everything else will fall into place," Kalif says.

Along with asking Mississippi Power for a break on the bills, the city is also asking God's Katrina Kitchen to move closer to the tent city. Right now the kitchen is located just past the old Walmart on Highway 90. It serves thousands of hot meals each day.

Two websites are helping link people who want to volunteer in Pass Christian with information about accommodations. They are www.MCVS.org and www.1-800volunteer.org.