Through the Heart of a Red Crosser: Inside a Red Cross shelter

Steve Wise is a volunteer with the American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois who has helped with many disasters including tornadoes, floods, fires and more. Now he is sharing some of his experiences on what it is like to be a Red Crosser.

Many of us have heard of the many Shelters that were put up in response to last year’s Hurricanes and now this year’s Wildfires.
In such Shelters you will find people of all backgrounds and races. They will be young and old…in good health and in very poor health. They will come with some belongings that they were able to grab before leaving their home. Or they may come with very little…and only have what they are wearing on their back.
They may come with family members…so thankful that they are all safe. They may come with their pets who are an integral part of their family. Or they may be alone and by themselves – desperately seeking someone to comfort them.
They may come and want to tell you stories of how they escaped the flood waters or fires that engulfed their home. They may know that if and when they go home – they most likely will find utter destruction. Or they may not know how bad it could be or possibly how lucky they are. Which will weigh heavily on them until they are able to see with their own eyes.
But now it is up to us as a Shelter Worker or Volunteer…to hear them, comfort them the best that we can…to give them the time that they need to share with us…and to help in whatever way that we can to get them on their road to recovery.
It is common for our Shelter Residents to be sleeping on cots next to people that they do not know. But as the days wear on…these strange faces will soon become their neighbors…looking out for each other. They will form bonds with each other – and most likely us as well.
As a Red Crosser – we unfortunately will see some very sad sights in a Shelter which will weigh heavily on our hearts. It is not uncommon to see one of our fellow Red Crossers sitting and crying with the arms of another Red Crosser around them. But we must push on and do our best to stay strong…because there are so many people that are counting on us for our help.

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