Red Cross shelters; everyone is welcome

By Mauri Shuler (10-15-2017)

When the town of Calistoga was evacuated, Jose left in the predawn hours with his family to escape the flames; he desperately tried to think of a place to go where his family would be safe. Jose had plenty to worry about, as he is undocumented. He has worked in California for 40 years, and has three daughters born in the United States. Safety from the fire was primary, but he also worried about staying safe from immigration authorities.

A friend told him to go to the Red Cross shelter in Napa and, cautiously, he did.

“When we arrived at 3 a.m., they just asked for our names and phone number … nothing else,” Jose said. “And that made me feel better.”

But then rumors began circulating about immigration officers arriving to check documentation.

“That’s when the Red Cross shelter workers talked with us and assured us this would not happen. It’s been three days and we are safe,” he said.

He attends daily briefings by CalFire, Napa County and the mayor of Calistoga who visited the shelter at Napa Valley College. “I know, now, that we are safe here. And the Red Cross shelter workers have all been so kind. We are treated well, with dignity.”

Red Cross volunteers have been going out to nearby parking lots to take food and offer clothing or other essentials people might need because they know that, unlike Jose, there fire survivors who continue to be afraid of getting help inside an emergency shelter.

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Lori Wilson, Beth Eurotas, and Jim Burns provided editorial support for this story.