Oregon Trail can offer some hurricane victims promise of new life
The devastation is unbelievable. And the aftermath is unthinkable.
Citizens have been ordered to abandon their homes and jobs in New Orleans that is, if their homes and jobs still exist.
And while the promise of federal aid looms on the horizon, you aren't likely to get much aid from the government or an insurance company if you didn't have much to lose before Hurricane Katrina hit.
And if your business is shut down, your job is gone for weeks, or possibly months or for good.
Therein lies the tragedy for Gulf Coast workers who survived the hurricane and an opportunity for Baker City and some of the displaced people of the Gulf Coast region to help each other.
New Tribes Missions Institute has left Baker City. Its facility, once a federal Air Force base, remains available with small homes and barracks capable of temporarily housing dozens if not hundreds of displaced people.
Baker City and County have tried to convince the state to purchase the facility as a means of expanding the Powder River Correctional Facility.
That's not a bad idea. But it doesn't appear like it is going to happen anytime soon.
However, the city, state and New Tribes could enter into an agreement now to use the facility as a temporary shelter for displaced workers.
Get the state employment department and human services involved, and get the word out through federal and media channels: there are jobs to be filled in retail, hospitality and light industrial plants in Baker City, Oregon.
There is temporary housing available, with the opportunity to transition into stable housing that is affordable to rent or even buy.
And if you've no other reason to stay in shelters in the Gulf Coast region, we'd welcome you with open arms.
This won't appeal to everyone. Some folks have deep roots in the South, and others have too much invested to leave without trying to recover some of their assets.
And for Oregonians, this shouldn't take the place of making donation of time or money to a relief organization. Folks who have lost everything need a handout just to find their feet.
But we could also offer a hand back up at a time when they are really down. State and local economic developers often travel to recruit companies. Why not send employment department specialists to recruit workers for Oregon communities like ours that are desperate for workforce and population?
For some of the workers with experience in the sectors where Baker City desperately needs experienced workers, it may make sense to some hurricane victims to just pull up stakes and migrate for a chance to start anew.
Baker needs more workers and more population.
They need work and a place to live.
And where better to invite a few dozen or hundred people to live than the home of the great migration itself, Baker City?
It's an unconventional idea.
But this is an inconceivable calamity.
We could make the promise of new life at the end of the Oregon Trail ring true again for victims of Hurricane Katrina.