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Déjà vu has never held a negative connotation to me, until June 26th, 2011, the first day of the Las Conchas fire.
Once again, I was at a distance while my friends and family wondered if their homes would be threatened by the flames. Thankfully, this outcome was much different than that of the Cerro Grande fire, when my family and many friends did lose their homes.
This time around, I was at least in a position to offer some assistance. I jumped on Facebook and posted that I had a guest room in Albuquerque available to anyone who may need it. Many followed suit. It didn’t take long to realize that someone in need of a place to stay would not have the time or wherewithal to search back through all the Facebook postings to discover these available locations. I took down all of the information and offered my phone number to evacuees looking for temporary housing.
Through the course of the fire, over 40 spaces were volunteered, and seven families were connected with someone to provide temporary housing. The locations were from all four corners of New Mexico, Southern Colorado and West Texas. They ranged from a single guest room, to an empty five bedroom home, to an empty lot with water and electricity hook-ups. Some accepted pets, some were handicapped accessible. Thank you to all who offered their homes and their hearts to help the citizens of Los Alamos who were evacuated from their homes this past summer.
After the evacuation order had been lifted, I continued to hear of other fires burning in New Mexico.
It dawned on me that every time a town was evacuated, there were people in need of a place to stay, and no doubt families willing to offer temporary housing. I researched the options available to those evacuees and evacuees nationwide, and found nothing. I looked for established ways for potential hosts to offer their locations to evacuees, and found nothing. Eventually, it became apparent that evacuees across the nation who are dealing with the physical and emotional trials of leaving their homes for what could tragically be the last time, are also left to their own devices to find a place to stay. It is because of the experiences above that I have started HEED (Housing for Emergency Evacuated and Displaced).
The vision of HEED is to improve the lives of those temporarily without a home due to an emergency and to forever change the manner in which emergency housing is approached. HEED will accomplish this by acting as a clearing house to connect responsible, charitable adults/families who want to offer housing with evacuated and/or displaced individuals in need of housing during times of emergency.
This organization, currently registered with the federal government and the state of New Mexico, will be a non-profit organization (501 c 3 status pending) that operates through a web-based database. Background checks will be performed on potential hosts. HEED’s goal is to be operational in New Mexico by May 1, 2012 and we project the organization will function on a national level within the next 5 years.
HEED is currently filling its Board and is still in need of dedicated members. Specifically, the organization would benefit from individuals with legal, marketing and/or grant writing experience.
Additionally, as is the case with every new venture, HEED is searching for donors to invest in the organization’s success.
Please contact Kristin Derr, HEED Managing Director, at firstname.lastname@example.org with inquiries. Donations can be made directly to HEED at any branch of Los Alamos National Bank.