With a ton of family in town this past week (especially over the weekend) I got to thinking what if the shoe were on the other foot? That is, what if we had to be the safe haven for family and friends who had to evacuate? Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy are prime examples. In this case, it's not that the disaster has hit you specifically so it's not like your electricity, food, or water resources have been affected but housing could very well be. Of course we would help out as much as we could, but with so many people in town and at our house I got to thinking about how much of a logistical problem this could turn into if things were a bit different.
Obviously, these people came with their own clothes, toiletries, money, and so on. But, what if they hadn't, and all they had were the clothes on their back? That would be a significant burden for sure. Since they're family and likely close friends you would do everything you could to care for them within a bit of reason, but you can't do it all. Surely some of your preps would come in handy, from stored food to extra toothbrushes and, no doubt, the 400+ rolls of toilet paper in the garage.
Anyway, a problem I can see cropping up is what happens if not only family and close friends show up but maybe they unexpectedly bring their friends or even some neighbors? You know, the people they bar-b-que with every Sunday for the past 20 years. Now we're talking about a LOT of people, some of which you may not even know and now you may be expected to care for them for an indefinite amount of time. That would get old very fast... even if it were just family and friends.
I can hear you saying they should get a hotel, stay in the local FEMA camp, or whatever. But, what if so many people have evacuated to your area and there simply isn't anywhere else to go? I think places like Houston had this problem during Katrina. The point ist hat you may very well be stuck with them, like it or not. I can tell you that even after just a few days I was ready for everyone to go back from where they came and these were all of my wife's family and close friends!
Regardless of where they should stay or for how long, there's also another problem once you've taken everybody in, and that's how do you logistically deal with all of them? Instead of just your normal family you may now have four or five times that many people at your home. We had dozens of people here for days on end and, fortunately, quite a few of them had other places to go. Still, it was a mad house. We had people staying everywhere, from in bedrooms and on couches to blow-up mattresses (a few of which were borrowed). We used every blanket and comforter in the house, not to mention towels I didn't even know we had.
And you know the best part?...
The washing machine went belly-up just as most people arrived!! So, off to the local laundromat and the laundry keeps piling up along with dishes, dishes, and more dishes... and that's even with using a ton of paper plates, cups, utensils and so on. The water heater never stopped and I'm pretty sure we started our own soup kitchen. Well, it wasn't that bad. Many friends and neighbors did bring meals, which was a blessing.
So, the moral of the story is to contemplate what you would do if you had to be the safe haven for literally dozens of people? Where would they sleep? What about privacy? How would you feed them? What about bathroom and shower schedules (yeah, it could get that bad)? If they stay for longer than a day or two, how would others be expected to help out? What if they don't? How about quiet time when the kids need to go to sleep because they have school the next day?
Perhaps the biggest questions are: would you be open to allowing this situation? Would your spouse? How many people could you house if you had to? And, what would you do if you had to turn people away (maybe even friends or family)? Could you?
And the most important question of all...
When have they officially overstayed their welcome and now it's time for them to move on?