Haitians Unprepared for Windy City Weather

Soon they'll be placed in more permanent homes

By Kim Vatis and Anthony Ponce
|  Thursday, Jan 21, 2010  |  Updated 3:04 PM CDT
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Haitian Evacuees Arrive at O'Hare

NBCChicago

17 of the refugees are children.

Photos and Videos

Evacuees Wait to Be Reunited With Families

The first of the Haitian evacuees who arrived in Chicago on Wednesday night wait at the Christian Industrial League while travel arrangements are made for them to be reunited with family members in the U.S.

Nurses, Volunteers, Supplies Head Out for Haiti

The first of up to 30 of United's one-day, round-trip relief flights to Haiti left O'Hare on Wednesday morning.
More Photos and Videos

Among the 77 Haitian evacuees who caught a ride aboard a United Airlines flight to Chicago Wednesday night are about a dozen children who are experiencing cold weather and winter apparel for the very first time.

"They never wore gloves before," said Brian Rowland with A Safe Haven.  "They're just looking at their hands in amazement, like, 'What are these things?"

The evacuees, who by all accounts have been living in the streets and parks of their ravaged homeland, were taken Thursday morning to the Christian Industrial League, at 2750 W. Roosevelt Road, where they were given warm beds and food. Seventeen of the 77 refugees were children.

Their ordeal is unimaginable.

"They've gone through unbelievable hardship," Safehaven Vice President Mark Mulroe said.  “While they're here we are going to make sure they are comfortable warm and safe” Safe Haven runs the shelter.

They were taken to the shelter on two CTA buses and escorted by firefighters who help them move.

Once the evacuees are rested, various city, state and federal agencies will attempt to find them more permanent dwellings. They will also be offered counseling.

Many of them are Haitians who either hold U.S. or dual citizenship, or people who were able to get visas because they had family members evacuating to the states.

"Everybody's just trying to get home, trying to get to their families," said Vanessa Louis, who evacuated Haiti with her mother.  "That's what I see everyone's trying to do.  We're trying to do that, too."

Some aboard the plane were vacationers who traveled to Haiti before the quake. Many of those evacuees have already arranged to travel back to their home states.

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