Call for homeowners to assist evacuees

By Ryn Gargulinski: QCS

Tucumcari resident Paula Wakefield said she knows what it’s like to be homeless — her family’s house burned to the ground in 1966. And that’s why she wants to help evacuees hit by Hurricane Katrina or Rita by calling all local homeowners who have houses sitting vacant, but livable, in town.

“We are looking for people to come forward and say ‘I have a house that’s sitting vacant — someone can live there,’” Wakefield said.

Tucumcari Fire Chief Mike Cherry said there is no immediate call for help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and he received an e-mail from emergency services Monday that stated they have even stopped culling options for additional shelter. But he also said it would not be a bad idea to compile a list of homes available to evacuees for future reference, which could be kept on file in the fire department and forwarded to the state emergency system.

“You never know which way it may go,” Cherry said, “Santa Fe doesn’t even know.” He said although things have seemed to settle down in the wake of the two recent hurricanes, it does not hurt to be prepared.

Cherry also said that some evacuees are being given debit cards to pay for things like groceries and rent and what seems to be on the agenda more than temporary shelter is longer-term housing until people get back on their feet.

“I realize Tucumcari is a small town,” Wakefield said, “but we can offer help. We can offer a junction. This is a breathing spot,” she said, “an absolute perfect breathing spot.”

Wakefield, who said she and her husband spent 28 years in Phoenix where she said there are massive amounts of homeless people, recalled how it felt to be one.

“It was scary,” Wakefield said when the four-family unit in which they lived near the Marine Corp Air Base became a pile of rubble. “The children were all safe but everything we owned was gone. People do not realize how hard it is to start over. Just go through the kitchen — you need spices, cups, forks, knives, spoons,” Wakefield said.

She said the base gave them new housing within a couple of days and friends and family banned together to help them rebuild their lives.

“The only thing that didn’t burn was my husband’s Bible he got when he was 8 years old,” Wakefield said, “and one black molly (a fish).”

Homes to lend

Homeowners willing to lend out their homes can contact:
Paula Wakefield at 461-3446
Mike Cherry at 461-4400