By Luke Phillips
As aide pours into Calexico and Mexicali to help earthquake victims, some residents of El Centro say they’re feeling left out.
Antonio Esquivia and his wife Lucina have been staying at an emergency earthquake shelter set up by the American Red Cross at Desert Trails RV Park in El Centro since the quake happened April 4. The Esquivias had no where else to go after their mobile home at Gio’s Mobile Home Park in El Centro was red tagged by county inspectors. Residents are not allowed to occupy, or even enter, homes that have been flagged with a red tag.
“We need help to move our trailer back up,” Lucina said. “Our homes and families have been affected by the earthquake. We need help too. Don’t forget about us.”
When Senator Denise Ducheny announced that she would be in the Imperial Valley to tour the earthquake damage, the Esquivias say that they, along with several other El Centro residents who are feeling abandoned, decided to take their case to the Senator directly. They gathered at the Imperial Valley Emergency Operations Center in Heber, the first stop on Ducheny’s tour, and pleaded with her to send some help their way.
Lucina Esquivia says that Ducheny wasn’t even aware that there was any damage in El Centro.
“She was just focusing on the businesses and helping Mexicali,” Antonio said. “She didn’t know much about it. The people in El Centro were affected too, they just didn’t complain about it, so they aren’t getting the help. They’re forgetting about us.”
So far, the Esquivias say that the American Red Cross are the only ones helping them at all.
“The Red Cross has been helping us,” Lucina said. “They were there. They were the first ones we saw.”
The Red Cross made contact with the Esquivias while doing damage assessments in El Centro and let them know about the shelter at Desert Trails.
Red Cross Public Information Officer Amy Hegy says that all but one of the people who have been using the shelter have been displaced from mobile homes. County inspectors have red tagged more than 100 mobile homes across the Imperial Valley.
The shelter is averaging about 15 people staying overnight every day, but Hegy says they are seeing an increase in the amount of people coming for food or showers.
As of Friday, April 9, the shelter had 56 overnight stays, served 163 meals and 234 snacks.
While the Red Cross is accepting in-kind donations of things like water, Hegy says they still aren’t taking clothing and other items because they are not set up to handle those kind of donations.
“We have partners who are better able to handle things like cothing,” Hegy said. “So we let them do what they do best.”
Hegy says people who want to donate clothing or other items should look into other charity organizations such as the Salvation Army, however, the American Red Cross does accept cash donations.
Hegy says that they shelter will be open for any body in need for the foreseeable future.
“It (the shelter) will be here as long as it needs to be,” Hegy said.