A ShelterBox Response Team (SRT) continues working in Oklahoma, USA to address shelter needs of communities impacted by last month’s tornadoes.
For the last few weeks, affected families in Bethel Acres and Little Axe have been living in cars, under tarps and in standard tents that are not suitable for extreme weather conditions, especially now the hot summer months have begun.
‘The damage here is incomparable to the major disasters I’ve responded to,’ said SRT member Alan Monroe (US). ‘There are massive piles of debris everywhere; personal items hanging out of trees, twisted mobile homes… people are living in their damaged cars that were tumbled during the tornadoes.’
ShelterBox’s high-quality disaster relief tents are being distributed amongst the communities to provide them with a temporary solution to bridge the gap from now until rebuilding is complete in a few months’ time.
Why is ShelterBox assisting now, several weeks following the disaster, as opposed to in the immediate aftermath? Neighbours, churches and other community groups were addressing the needs of impacted people in the early days of recovery. However, over time some needs have changed and people want to be amongst their own community and near to work, family, and other important social structures. ShelterBox was contacted when it became clear a flexible but safe shelter solution was needed to supplement other efforts.
‘People here cannot, and do not want to, leave as their work is nearby,’ added Alan. ‘In rural USA, the nearest city is no less than an hour away. People don’t want to go to the shelters offered there when they have no running vehicle to travel to work everyday, it would be impossible for them.
‘Staying here not only enables them to continue earning a living but they can also oversee the rebuilding process. They should have the shelter and privacy of living in a tent rather than a half-squashed car until the building is done.’
Even though the SRT members say it is heartbreaking to see the trail of destruction left behind by the tornadoes, how one house is completely destroyed and another hardly touched, they are inspired by how very community-minded everyone is there.
‘There is a sense of resilience here, a sense of hope,’ continued Alan. ‘We are working with community leaders, Rotary and Scouts, who are assisting us with assessing needs and setting up the tents. Everyone is willing to lend a hand to those in need and it’s heartwarming to see.’
ShelterBox has collaborated with Amerijet, DHL and DHL Global Forwarding, which have provided transportation and logistical support for the charity’s response in Oklahoma.