Disaster relief

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In response to “Disaster relief for LGBTQ community, centers crucial to efforts to assist those they serve,” published on Oct. 6.

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Dear fellow QNotes readers,

The above article was a joy for me to read. Because there’s been a whole string of disasters recently, rat-a-tat-tat, I’ve begun thinking of another topic. Although it remains important to respond in relief to things as they occur, perhaps some readers also want to plan for the future, by considering the process of response itself. As the 1990s “SNL” [“Saturday Night Live”] character of Coffee Talk Lady would say: “Talk amongst yourselves. I’ll give you a topic. Discuss!” The topic is: Could a different system of disaster relief be created?

Should it? What would that look like for the LGBTQ community?

In the past, a person would watch/ hear/ read a breaking news story about an unfolding disaster. If compassionate and able to respond, they might write a check to the Red Cross, Red Crescent or some other established, generic disaster relief organization. Or petition their government, at various levels, to get involved and spend taxpayer funds to assist. Those are still fine avenues of relief. Of course, “the money you donate today” usually goes to the disaster of tomorrow, since those reliable organizations can have sizable turnaround times.

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But it’s still valuable, because tomorrow’s disasters are guaranteed to arrive! By contrast, in recent times, social media and the power of the Internet have allowed quick set-ups of crowdfunding. They directly funnel money, skills, and resources to hotspots. They’re also fine avenues of relief, although their track records can be spottier, [their organizers] less transparent and accountable. In the article, the Montrose Center in Houston is mentioned as admirably responding to Hurricane Harvey hitting that city by addressing their own community’s own needs. So too have community news offices served in other disasters, as has the entire denomination of Metropolitan Community Churches, for their members. (BTW, I have personal experience with MCC outreach). Also mentioned for admirable work are: Reconciling Ministries Network, CenterLink, and others. None of those organizations were specifically created to anticipate and respond to future disasters, however.

What about the creation of a new organization, specifically organized (or appended to an existing organization) to anticipate response to future events, whatever [they may be] and wherever they occur? However such disasters might affect the worldwide LGBTQ community? Something that encapsulates the “for-us-by-us” work ethic? After all, this community has needs which are specific to itself. That’s something which a generic organization might overlook or neglect, either deliberately or inadvertently. Likewise, donors might enjoy having a new, targeted option for their precious resources. If, say, a “Red Rainbow” non-profit disaster agency were created: What would that look like? (Sorry I couldn’t think of a better name on short notice.)

Would it have to be initially affiliated with some larger entity; for example, under the umbrella of MCC or the Red Cross, before breaking out on its own? How can it be structured to have the speed and hyper-focus of crowdsourcing, along with the reliability and strength of the old standbys? Within the LGBTQ community, many folks already have admirable, personal track records of activism and service, blazing trails where none existed before. Decades have also already been spent in various current disaster relief organizations. My question simply becomes: Has the time arrived to blaze a new path for LGBTQ disaster response, not merely relief? Thanks for listening and for musing with me.

— J.Kemper

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