WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Hurricane Dorian’s devastation took everyone by surprise, even the relief agencies working to help in the aftermath.
The American Red Cross says their international chapter is on the ground in the Bahamas with shelters, feedings and supplies. They do have plans to be there for the long haul.
SPECIAL COVERAGE: Bahamas After Dorian
But the question remains on what work is being done to help evacuees here in Palm Beach County.
WPTV has learned that right now, Palm Beach County is working with the local Red Cross to form what’s being called a 'long term recovery group'. It will be made up of local groups banding together to help storm victims.
“This is going to be an all hands on deck effort to really help these folks out,” said Jennifer Durrant, executive director for the Red Cross of Palm Beach & Martin Counties.
She said in the next few days, they hope to learn more about how they will assist families who have left the devastation in the Bahamas and are now staying with relatives here.
About 1,100 people from the Bahamas were brought back on the Grand Celebration cruise ship turned humanitarian vessel on Saturday.
“When they cruise ship arrived, there wasn’t a strong sense of how many people were going to need shelter,” said Durrant.
Durant said nearly all of the people who got off that ship over had family and friends ready to pick them up at the port. Some had even driven from as far as Louisiana or Georgia to pick up their relatives and bring them home.
The remaining 23 families were taken to an emergency Red Cross shelter set up in Lake Worth, according to Palm Beach County officials.
We’re told the families have now transitioned from the emergency triage shelter to temporary housing and have been assigned case managers through the county.
“Palm Beach County staff mobilized quickly, assessed the needs, reunited families and this afternoon placed the remaining evacuees in the temporary housing. While the shelter will be demobilized, case management will continue,” county officials said in a statement.
While organizations are collecting and sending aid to Bahamas, Durrant said she hopes to learn more by Friday on any efforts to collect or mobilize for families here.
“So really right now, we’re kind of waiting on what’s going to come out of this long term recovery group. Who’s doing what. It seems as if for now, sheltering is taken care of but that could change,” she said. “We don’t know if another ship is going to arrive, how many people on that ship or however they get here — who will need shelter. It’s going to be a matter of several groups coming together to help out these people.”
She added that the American Red Cross has committed $2 million to the relief efforts in the Bahamas and they expect that to expand over time.
The Red Cross also does not accept donations of food or clothes because they aren’t equipped to sort or stock for it — but other organizations like the United Way is collecting and sorting through donations. Families who need assistance with medical, food, supply and clothing needs can dial 211 on their phone for help.
You can also donate directly to the United Way's Hurricane Dorian Relief Fund .
Durrant said the best way to help is to donate money to Red Cross so they can distribute that money to local organizations assisting storm victims and to the Red Cross efforts in the Bahamas.
“The Red Cross typically collects financial donations in order to stand up shelters, provide supplies — so we are collecting those donations,” she said. “Financial contributions allow us to be on site in communities providing sheltering, food, health and mental health services — whatever folks need.”