The free food and goods being poured into this region so that its residents will have a lifeline that covers their basic day-to-day needs are going away. Some outlets could be gone in a month; three months at the outside.
"It's a process," says Bryan Adam, director of emergency management services for the area. Hancock County, which includes Waveland and Bay St. Louis, has drawn up a 30-60-90 recovery plan that outlines what free goods and services will be shut down.
"We need to get our economy back," Adams said, and businesses might be reluctant to start up again when all their customers are getting hand-outs. However, Adams also stressed that "nothing is written in stone" as far as the recovery plan goes. "If the need is still there, then of course we won't be shutting anything down," he said. How will he know? "We'll just know," he said.
Adams also squashed a popular rumor here: that FEMA is making some feeding groups leave or has told them to stay away. "FEMA don't shut down nobody," Adams said.
Most of the feeding and free goods distribution stations have been contacted about the recovery plan and know they'll possibly have to leave within 90 days, Adams said; the plan was announced during a public town hall meeting.
Shutting down these free services is a dicey issue. On the one hand, people need to eat and need the basics of everyday life, like water, ice and soap. But it's also true that these two cities are showing at least a glimmer of recovery and there needs to be plans in place to help that happen. "It's a delicate balance," Adams said.
One issue of concern is that the feeding and distribution centers are increasingly being used by workers in the area that have come down to help rebuild. That's angered some, Adams said. "I say, if they want to eat, let them eat," he said.
The best-known feeding center is the New Waveland Cafe that is serving its last meal today before leaving. Rumors have circulated all around the place that FEMA or others had pushed them out. Not the case, Adams said. "They only planned to be here for three weeks originally" and ended up staying three months, he noted. "People will miss them, I'm sure of that."
Adams and his staff grasp at any statistic that can be used to show that the people and the area are starting to rise up from this ruin. One such story involves the re-opening of the Wal-Mart in Waveland. When that happened, "visitors to the free market at the New Waveland cafe, where people could literally fill shopping carts with non-perishable grocery items, went dramatically down," said David Greiser, a spokesman for the emergency management center.
"The people want to be self-sufficient," Adams said. "And we're doing everything we can to make sure that happens."
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