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.