Red Cross Hands out Debit Cards to Thousands of Evacuees

Evacuees stand in line for Red Cross debit cards
Lines nearly a mile long snaked along outside the Reliant center today, where thousands of Katrina evacuees waited for their chance to get a new Red Cross Debit card. The card will help many start new lives after losing everything.

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Braving soaring temperatures and hot pavement, evacuees like Tyrone Curry waited in two huge lines, hoping for a chance to either pick-up their debit cards or register for an appointment later. "This is all we have going for us just about. I think that's the majority of the people out here in the line. If they had any other alternative, they'd probably be doing it," he says.

Holding her 6-month old daughter, Kimberly Brock says she's been in line since early today, hoping for a chance to get a card that will help her get back on her feet. She says she'll use the money to find housing and then go from there.

The Red Cross' Greg Smith says the debit card was made available to the residents of the Reliant Park shelters first and will expand over the next few days. He says evacuees have to fill out a simple application form before they can get the cards. "The assistance card is a regular debit, ATM-type card. It can be used to purchase the items that individuals need for their recovery, food, clothing, lodging, anything that they need to spend it on that will help them and assist them in their recovery," he says.

While many in lines outside thought they were getting $2,000, Smith says the amount varies according to family size.

He says the maximum a family can get is around $1,500 and that the cards aren't usable until about 12 hours after they're activated.

Bio photo of Jack Williams

Jack Williams

Director of News Programming

News Director Jack Williams has been with Houston Public Radio since August of 2000. He's also a reporter and anchor for Houston Public Radio's local All Things Considered segments...