The Forgotten of Florence: What Happens to our City’s Most Vulnerable

There are many people who try to weather out the many hurricanes that hurdle their way to the Carolina’s coast. Lucky people in safe zones see photos of those being rescued and wonder: “why didn’t they leave?” Many claim that it is their fault for not choosing to leave, but it is typically not a choice given, but a choice dictated by the health and wealth of said people. Casualties of the events mostly consist of those who were physically and financially unable to escape the red zones. There were even cases of fear of deportation by immigration officials in the rural spanish-speaking communities.

The evacuation for the homeless

The current count for the homeless in South Carolina, conducted in 2017, tallied 3,916 people – including 480 veterans and 173 unaccompanied youth. The shelters close when mandatory evacuations take place, and people living from hotel to hotel are forced out of their only options. Luckily, the state Homeless Continuum of Care administrator approached many on the streets to urge them to seek shelter through given transportation. Some took the opportunity and were provided with transportation to emergency shelters.

Flyers are handed out to the rest with bus routes that could take them to safety. Although, some people still cannot make it out and are forced to find shelter in places unknown. These places aren’t even equipped enough to deal with a tropical storm, let alone a Category 3 hurricane.

The evacuation for the poor

People living in some of the poorest counties are expected to find their own way to safety. There are people who live in low-income housing who are stuck without any financial options for a way out. These families do not have the income to support a car. The only option they are left with is to “ride it out.” It may seem like people always have a choice, but with no money or friends, it can sometimes be their only option. Government officials advise citizens to ask neighbors or strangers for help. It usually all comes down to the hope and the prospect of finding someone willing to help a person in need. It is terrifying for a person to base their chances of living on the simple hope of a person’s kindness.

The outcome of the hurricane designates whether these people have a home to go back to – many without insurance. The shelters can be destroyed, and all options are off the table for the underprivileged. There are donation bins littered around campus, but what can a bar of soap do when a person does not even have access to clean water?

The evacuation for the sick

In some cases, patients may be transported to the medical needs shelters. Sadly, the elderly in assisted living are expected to find evacuation safety through their families. It is unfair when considering there are those who have no family and no means to evacuate.

People who were able to evacuate out of the red zones were often placed into worse conditions because of poor food and housing that was provided. Dietary needs were not met and the disabled were not treated with the measurements needed for their proper care. The potential for the sick to not have access to their medication is another worry, as pharmacies could become completely unreachable for those in need.

It seems that the people who are stuck in their own homes are the ones to be forgotten. These are the handicapped who are unable to drive or ask for the help they need.

The evacuation for the mentally ill

It is important to remember that mental illness is a form of disability. People who suffer from mental illness sometimes fall in the group of those forgotten during times of emergency. Often put into government operated facilities, unfortunately, the measures are not always met for their safety.

During Florence, while two female patients were transferred to another facility during the time of the flood, their vehicle was overcome with flood waters. Only the law enforcement officials were able to escape in time. The sad and very disheartening part of the story is the fact that the patients were unable to be extricated due to their restrain. There are many questions to be asked during incidents like these. An air of unease follows because the whole story doesn’t make sense. The officers saved their own lives and left two women on their own.

The harsh reality of this parallels with the reality that many of the ill and homeless face. It is the blinding fear of physically being trapped in a place of danger without the ability to save yourself. It is why it is so important that the country stands strong in its ideals to help those who cannot help themselves when mother nature decides to strike next.  

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Judith Arendall, a Nashville native, is a Junior english major with a Writing, Rhetoric and Publication emphasis. In Judith’s free time, aside from writing for CisternYard, she interns at Blue Bicycle Books.

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