The first of two families displaced by Hurricane Katrina and expected to stay in Juneau at least temporarily arrived Tuesday night.
Timothy and Fritzie Williams of Biloxi, Miss., and their two sons, Justin, 5, and T.J., almost 2, are staying in a furnished Douglas Island apartment, courtesy of Love INC., a Christian charitable relief organization that has a local chapter in Juneau. It has about 100 branches nationwide.
Fritzie graduated from Juneau-Douglas High School in the mid-1990s before joining the military, where she met Timothy. Her family still lives in town. The couple returned to Juneau briefly in 2000 before moving down south.
"It's not that much different, except for the weather," said Timothy, comparing Juneau to Biloxi.
Love INC, which stands for Love In Christ, was founded in June and is a network of 20 churches that collect resources to help homeless, single mothers and others with financial and material needs. At the request of the mayor's task force, Love INC is acting as the city's official support center for hurricane victims.
A couple from New Orleans, currently living in a Longview, Texas, hotel, is considering moving to Juneau during the week of Oct. 17. The couple have a 2-week-old infant who was born after the hurricane. They also have family in Juneau.
The Williams left their home after their apartment suffered extensive water damage. Since the storm struck the Gulf Coast in late August, the family was sheltered in a hotel in central Mississippi.
With Justin eager to start school, the couple agreed they could makes their lives easier by leaving Biloxi. The reconstruction efforts on the Gulf Coast could take a long time, they said.
"It's too depressing to stay there," Fritzie said. Ninety percent of the parts of the city she saw appeared to be destroyed, she said.
Timothy and Fritzie were attending college classes at a satellite campus of Tulane University and studying education and network systems, respectively. Alaska Airlines provided the airfare for the family.
"They pulled some strings to do this," said Dave Eley, board president of Love INC, adding the airline has no special account set aside for these purposes.
The home has several hundred dollars worth of food and clothes, plus a car. The apartment was donated by a local owner and it has a three-month lease, free of charge.
"This gives them a chance to get their feet back on the ground and start deciding on what their next move will be," Eley said.
The couple said they are interested in enrolling at University of Southeast Alaska and continuing their studies.
Eley said it is better for displaced people coming to Juneau to have some connection to the city, given its extreme weather contrasts to the Gulf region and the high cost of living.
At this time, Eley said he does not know of any other hurricane victims coming to Juneau.
Andrew Petty can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.