A family displaced by Hurricane Katrina is on its way to Lawrence, and hundreds more may soon follow.
City officials announced this afternoon that a New Orleans family has been chosen as part of the city's program to adopt a family displaced by the hurricane. Ursla and D.J. Markey, along with their 25 year-old son who has a learning disability, are expected to arrive in Lawrence late next week.
But officials with Douglas County Emergency Preparedness are preparing for hundreds of additional families to show up on Lawrence's doorstep. Paula Phillips, director of the emergency management agency, said Gov. Kathleen Sebelius' office has asked Lawrence to serve as a possible overflow shelter site for some of the 4,500 storm victims that will be transferred to Kansas from overcrowded shelters in Texas.
City, county, hospital, university and nonprofit agencies will meet Wednesday morning to determine where a shelter that could house between 100 and 500 people could be located. Discussions also will include whether the community has enough resources - both in terms of dollars and manpower - to provide the necessary services to the refugees.
Other communities expected to house refugees from Texas include Wichita, Topeka, Salina, Garden City and Johnson County.
The Markeys were brought to the city's attention by Kansas University professors Ann and Rud Turnbull, who knew the Markeys through their work with children with disabilities. The Markeys run a New Orleans training center that works with parents and children affected by disabilities. That center was destroyed by the hurricane.
"I call this couple the Mother Teresa of the disability movement," said Ann Turnbull. "They are great people."