2005 – Gay community rallies to support victims of Hurricane Katrina

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New Hope Gazette, September 15th, 2005. Article by Sean Patrick Murphy, Assistant Editor

Photo: Daniel Brooks, NHC Founder

“There wasn’t really anything mentioned regarding the specifics of the GBLT community being started,” said Daniel Brooks, who is helping to coordinate relief efforts locally. 

Some allege GLBT refugees are being discriminated against.

We’ve seen the images: a dog stranded helplessly on top of flooded houses, families clinging to boats and rescue workers trying feverishly to save the lives of people trapped by floodwaters.

But what about people in the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) community?

Chico Perez, a political activist, said in a recent interview that, because they cater to traditional families, the American Red Cross and the United Way discriminate against GLBT people.

“They usually don’t have family helping them out,” Perez said about GLBT people.

He also noted that “so-called” religious groups want to help, but once “they find out you’re gay, they shy away from you.”

Soon after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans and much of the Gulf of Mexico coast, Perez started making phone calls “just to get people to help out their kind.” On Thursday following the hurricane, Perez had as many as 50 people contact him in three hours looking for places to relocate.

Perez and other members of the local GLBT community have opened their homes to Gulf coast refugees.

“This will be a great thing to let people know that Pennsylvania cares,” Perez, who lives in Reading, said.

He said no GLBT person has yet to relocate to this area because they are waiting for money to come from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

“I think once people start getting money and getting some help, we’re going to get a nice huge response from people wanting to relocate,” Perez said.

He also said he has been to the Website www.gay.com and in America Online chat rooms to connect people with HIV or AIDS to ways of getting medication.

Perez also runs a GLBT website, www.chicomax.com dedicated to hurricane relief.

Dan Brooks, the coordinator of New Hope Celebrates, pointed out that the GLBT community isn’t even on the media’s radar.

“This is a subgroup that was kind of neglected within the media coverage,” Brooks said. “There was more coverage of people’s pets.”

“There wasn’t really anything mentioned regarding the specifics of the GLBT community being stranded,” he added. 

Lack of coverage was not the only grievance many in the GLBT community had.

“There was a kind of frustration in the gay community regarding the hurricane relief situation that there was not something specific that we could do to help GLBT Gulf victims or Gulf refugees,” Brooks said.

He also said his organization’s website www.newhopecelebrates.com, is a place where people seeking shelter can be put in touch with people who are donating their space as part of the relief effort.

Brooks also noted that there is a national website www.RainbowRelief.org that also serves the GLBT community in the hurricane-affected areas.

He said he looked at Rainbow Relief very carefully because “there’s a lot of bogus stuff going on now.”

Brooks said New Hope Celebrates is not asking for money and that anybody looking to give money is referred to the American Red Cross.

“Any exchanging of money is always subject to question, “where’s the money going? Who’s taking it?” he said.


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