Crowd control a concern at Jacksonville's Irma relief events

By Jim Piggott - Reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - As more and more people seek financial help in the wake of Hurricane Irma, problems are beginning to crop up from large crowds.

The Red Cross shut down an event held Sunday at a church in Northwest Jacksonville when crowds grew unruly because of what organizers characterized as a misunderstanding.

Hundreds of people showed up at the event near Kings Road and Division Street after hearing rumors that the organization was handing out cash vouchers.

In reality, the Red Cross was giving the vouchers to qualified residents whose homes were destroyed or severely damaged in the storm.

Some of those who turned out said they waited for hours in the hopes of getting help only to walk away empty-handed. At one point, the police were called.

"They said they were done for Jacksonville," said a woman who goes by Drina. "All because a handful of people were either fighting at the other location yesterday or because a handful of people skipped a bunch of elderly people, and I don't feel that it's right."

Videos making their rounds on social media provided an unvarnished glimpses of what took place. In one clip, a woman can be heard ushering residents back to their vehicles.

"Please leave," she said. "I don't know how much more I can make this more clear. Please leave. Get out of line, get back in your vehicles and leave."

In a statement, the Red Cross indicated there is financial help available but only for residents with proof their homes were destroyed or significantly damaged.

"As we continue to offer assistance to those impacted by Hurricane Irma, the Red Cross is offering casework to help residents through the recovery process. This means talking with people individually, providing them an opportunity to share their needs with a trained caseworker and -- for those who qualify -- providing limited financial assistance," the group said in a statement.

Residents whose homes suffered major damaged or were destroyed by Irma are encouraged to call 281-728-8000.


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