1. read the post and comments below.
2. think about what refugees really need; comment with logistics. following are a few of the things i have seen or am currently mulling. grand forks people: think about what you really needed during evacuation, mucking out, rebuilding processes.
3. short term: getting to other places. how do we connect people with support networks that make sense for them? how do we honor folks' wishes about staying close (or indeed, about getting as far away as possible)?
POSSIBLE SOLUTION: see the action plan at the cesnik campaign. this entails actually going to refugees with lists of possible relocation points, and then taking them back to those points on buses.
POSSIBLE SOLUTION (more arm's-length): now that many refugees are at staging points, is there a way for people to donate frequent flier miles, travel vouchers, other sorts of travel resources? are there cars that can be donated or lent in a long-term way?
4. short term: basic necessities. flood refugees need clothes, food, water, housing, money, communications.
POSSIBLE SOLUTION: clothing/food drives, perhaps prior to the departure of 'cesnik buses' or other similar missions.
POSSIBLE SOLUTION: coordinate the donation of cellphones and cellphone minutes. are the telecom companies in on this? with communication networks it's easier for refugees to make informed decisions about where they'd like to go.
5. short-to-medium-term (perhaps for less seriously affected areas?): mucking out. this means labor, cleaning supplies, tools -- gallons upon gallons of bleach, millions of trash bags, and an infinitude of rubber gloves and face masks, as well as power-washers, wet vacs, pumps and generators.
POSSIBLE SOLUTION: find philanthropist ready to donate for transportation or even stipends. does this call for a ccc-style public employment project? consider that most of these refugees are poor. many may face a choice between looking for work and cleaning out their houses, unless there is a way to sustain either the returnees themselves or volunteers.
6. medium term: more basic necessities. this means more permanent housing, help with job searches and schools.
POSSIBLE SOLUTION: tutoring for displaced kids and adults. job skills and other training for displaced adults. national networks of cheap or free housing. access to databases of available employment. this is the range of solution that is being considered by folks in my department right now. the particulars are hazy, though. ideas?
7. long term: rebuilding. in new orleans this is complicated. we don't yet know what, if anything, will be rebuilt, how many people will want to return, etc. however:
POSSIBLE SOLUTION: see laurel's suggestion in comments to the last entry. send tons of people to do rough work with habitat for humanity on their vacation time.
POSSIBLE SOLUTION: find a way to support skilled labor (contractors, carpenters, plumbers, electricians, etc., etc.) to go to rebuilding areas, perhaps long before the rebuilding process starts in earnest, in order to train local workers. see "ccc-style public employment" and job-training ideas above.