American Red Cross Launches Toll-Free Call Center Expanding Ability to Meet Essential Needs of Hurricane Evacuees

American Red Cross
Saturday, 10 September 2005

The American Red Cross is quickly responding to the unprecedented scale and conditions of Hurricane Katrina by creating a new toll-free call center to meet emergency disaster needs. Even as volunteers are tending to critical needs, the Red Cross continues to expand its capability to build a bridge of financial assistance and services for victims until they can access state and federal aid. To date, the Red Cross has already distributed more than $100 million in financial assistance to meet critical needs such as food and water, shelter, clothing, and medical assistance.

"The role of charity is to turn compassion into action by harnessing the generosity and kindness of people who want to help and delivering it to those in need," said Marsha J. Evans, Red Cross President and CEO. "The Red Cross will meet disaster needs and remain flexible as they continue to emerge in the weeks and months to come."

The toll-free call center will provide financial resources and referrals to services for hurricane survivors across the nation. Families in need can access this program by calling 1-800-975-7585 beginning at 9:00 a.m. EST Sunday. To apply for aid, victims calling in must be ready to provide their name, pre-storm address, ZIP code and home telephone number to call center agents. Callers must be prepared to write down a client identification number which they will take to a financial institution in their new community to receive the support.

The Red Cross is providing emergency financial assistance, based on family size, for those who lived in the ZIP codes hardest hit by Hurricane Katrina. Due to the enormity of this disaster, the Red Cross is providing financial assistance in a variety of forms, so survivors can receive aid as quickly as possible. Some of these forms of assistance are client assistance cards, vouchers, checks and cash. Financial assistance is based on the cost of necessities such as food, toiletries and other essentials and is consistent with standard amounts Red Cross uses for every disaster. Red Cross anticipates helping between 750,000 and one million families through this program.

Red Cross services for victims include reuniting families, mental health support, first aid and emergency medications, clean-up supplies, temporary housing and caseworkers who provide referrals for additional services and help develop recovery plans.

Due to the huge number of families who have been affected by Hurricane Katrina, the phone lines will be busy over the first few days. The Red Cross asks that people who are able to wait for assistance allow their neighbors with the most critical needs to access this system first. The Red Cross anticipates that this system will take days, and perhaps weeks, before all eligible families can be served.

"People have been very patient as Red Cross volunteers work around the clock. We ask for continued patience as we turn donations into help as fast as possible. Our goal is for everyone touched by Katrina to be safe and comforted," said Joe Becker, vice president, preparedness and response, for the American Red Cross.

More than 40,000 Red Cross disaster volunteers and staff some of whom lost their own homes are devoting themselves to this around-the-clock effort. The Red Cross has provided more than 6.7 million hot meals, 1.6 million overnight stays in shelters, as well as emotional support and health care for victims, in the safety of more than 700 Red Cross shelters across 17 states and the District of Columbia.

All American Red Cross disaster assistance is free, made possible by voluntary donations of time and money from the American people. You can help the victims of this disaster and thousands of other disasters across the country each year by making a financial gift to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund, which enables the Red Cross to provide shelter, food, counseling and other assistance to those in need. Call 1-800-HELP NOW or 1-800-257-7575 (Spanish). Contributions to the Disaster Relief Fund may be sent to your local American Red Cross chapter or to the American Red Cross, P. O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013. Internet users can make a secure online contribution by visiting www.redcross.org.

For more information, or to contact American Red Cross, see their website at: www.redcross.org

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