23 News checked in with how relief efforts are going with the 51 Hurricane Katrina evacuees we welcomed to our community.
Right now Rockford is home to 200 evacuees. 160 are self-evacuees who moved to the community on their own. 40 Hurricane Katrina victims were flown in by the State of Illinois. Of all the evacuees we know of, about 34 have said they would like to permanently reside in Rockford.
So meet the Williams family our newest community members. When the family landed in Rockford, Sunday, September 11th it was like a foreign land.
Emmanuel Williams is an evacuee from Louisiana. He tells 23 News, "We were in flight for 45 minutes and they said we were going to Rockford and I said, "I have never heard of that." but we got here and it was beautiful.”
Emmanuel Williams, his wife Teresa and their 2-year-old daughter Tejara say they fell in love with Rockford and now plan on staying here for good. By October 1st the family will be moving into a 3 bedroom apartment.
Emmanuel says, "It's going to be hard to leave the facility because people make us feel at home."
But for others there's no place like home in New Orleans. Michael Patiste is an evacuee from New Orleans. He says, "My goal is to go home where I have a business. I just want to go home. Hey we got a little water, okay so I’m exaggerating but hey it's going be okay."
The Department of Human Services says this is the pain staking part of their time in Rockford. Evacuees have to decide if they will go back or permanently add to our population. Many won't go anywhere till they get a check from FEMA.
Department of Human Services Director George Davis says “They're waiting for benefits to make sure they don't move 2 to 3 times and benefits don't catch up to them."
Emmanuel and his family say it's going to be hard to leave the Singer Mental facility but can't wait to see what Rockford has to offer.
Emmanuel says, "I told my wife that I'm going to start looking for a gravesite and I'm going to be buried in Rockford."
A life-altering move that may turn out to be the best move for his family.
Evacuees staying at singer can come and go as they please. Security is on site in order to regulate the hoards of people wanting to drop off supplies or visit with the evacuees. Your help is needed but all in good time.