Carrie Patterson talked about seeing her “kids” again in downtown Baton Rouge.
“I was actually surprised to see how happy they were to see me,” she says, laughing. “They asked me about me and my wife’s dogs—to make sure they were OK.”
Patterson is a social worker with Diversity House, a homeless shelter for LGBTQ youth in the Louisiana capital. She is back at work this week after a days of rain engulfed the Southern city in torrential flooding—what the Red Cross has called the worst natural disaster since 2012’s Hurricane Sandy.
CNN reports that more than 31 inches of rain fell in a single day—6.9 trillion gallons of rainfall in a week.
“It was just like a tropical storm formed above us—and just stayed here,” Patterson says. “We called our parents to come and help us leave. By the time we were getting ready to leave, we had 4 feet of water in our house—up to 5 feet outside.”
Downtown was largely “an island,” Patterson says, so Diversity House missed most of the significant damage. However, now that the city is moving from rescue to recovery, Patterson is working hard to find resources for her kids.
“We’re working with a skeleton crew,” she says. “The local food banks were flooded and lost a lot—a lot—of food. We’ve been bridging the gap with basically leftovers from other shelters.”
However, Patterson says her kids are safe and in good spirits—“they got watered just the right amount,” she says, laughing.
Whenever a natural disaster strikes, the lack of social services for LGBT people becomes that much more pronounced. But in Baton Rouge, the community has responded with a concern for everyone’s safety.
“First thing I worried about was the families here who aren’t accepting of the LGBT community,” says Jena Ourso, board chair of the Capital City Alliance. “You may not have the support that others have. But there’s been an overwhelming amount of generosity and kindness coming from our own—from local people.”
The CCA is an LGBTQ advocacy group in Baton Rouge. They recently held a jambalaya fundraiser dinner for the victims and survivors of the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida. Ourso says they provide education and advocacy for “teens, queens, and everything in between.”
“We’ve had people inside and outside the city reaching out, wanting to know how they can help,” she says. “Everybody is focused on just being a human—just staying alive and dry.”
Patterson agrees. “So many times, being LGBTQ in the South, you can be discriminated against on an occasional or even a frequent basis,” she says. “But right now, folks are just helping each other—trying to make sure we’re OK. I don’t know if it’s a human thing or a Louisiana thing or all of the above, but right now, it’s really powerful to see.”
Please visit each organization’s website linked above to learn more, and consider donating to the Red Cross’s disaster relief fund here.