STEPS Takes Steps To Assist Hurricane Victims - - The News for South Mississippi

STEPS Takes Steps To Assist Hurricane Victims

STEPS is made up of church leaders, attorneys, and community activists. Its members hope a unified voice will ensure that low and moderate income hurricane victims get the same relief as everybody else.

Dorothy McClendon one of those members. When asked if she was satisfied with how quickly things were being accomplished in her neighborhood, the head of the Soria City Civic Organization said, "No I am not satisfied whatsoever."

It may not look like it, but McClendon has tried her best to beautify Soria City.

"If myself and a few of us didn't push to get things done, I don't think we would have got even what we got done done," she said.

Blue tarps remain on several of the shotgun style homes in Soria City. Other properties near downtown Gulfport still have hurricane debris piles. They're a visible reminder of what has and hasn't been repaired since the storm.

"This community is more or less kind of left out of the scene, unless we put pressure on," McClendon said.

A newly formed grassroots organization called the STEPS Coalition is about to apply some of that pressure. Melinda Harthcock is STEPS coordinator.

"By joining together," Harthcock said, "we will be able to make our voices become more vibrant, our logic to become more persuasive, and our actions to become more effective."

STEPS is a post hurricane partnership between at least 30 different community organizations. Groups as small as the Soria City Civic Organization and as large as the NAACP are banding together. They'll fight for what they consider five key post Katrina pillars. The pillars include affordable housing, historic preservation, the environment, equitable economic assistance, and civil rights issues.

James Crowell is with the Biloxi NAACP. He spoke at the news conference announcing the formation of STEPS.

"We feel as a collaborative group we can ensure that these things are taken care of," Crowell said.

At the news conference, STEPS leaders said their ultimate goal was to improve the quality of life for Dorothy McClendon, and every hurricane victim along the coast.

"It could be better and I'm hoping and praying that things do get better," McClendon said. "And it will get better if we do things such as we're doing today."

by Brad Kessie

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