Sharon Peavy's Whittier home sustained major damage in the Oct. 1 earthquake that devastated a large portion of that city, and the thought of reliving the trauma while seeking disaster assistance was not a welcome one.
But as Peavy left the La Habra earthquake relief center Monday with a handful of informational booklets and loan applications barely an hour after arriving, she said the process was not as painful as she had imagined.
"I mentioned that to someone as I was leaving," she said. "It's not nearly as bad as I thought it would be. We still have to deal with insurance companies and with contractors. It will be a long process. But we're just glad that no one got hurt."
Relief efforts at the La Habra center, one of seven set up to offer aid to those hardest hit by the 6.1-magnitude quake, continued to run smoothly on the second day of its operation, enhanced by an appointment system that has reduced the amount of time spent processing applications, officials said.
A spokesman for the state Office of Emergency Services said more than 300 people have filed through the La Habra center to submit relief applications or schedule appointments later in the week.
Some Routed to La Habra
Because of the large numbers of people seeking aid at the Whittier relief center, many continued to be routed to La Habra, but Bruno Ferioli, a manager with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said relief operations have gone without a hitch. Most residents seem to be coping with the process well, he said.
"There have been a couple who have been pretty stressed, but most of the people who have come in are doing quite well," Ferioli said.
He added that a mental health nurse has been on duty to aid residents still feeling emotional trauma from the quake and reported that at least one upset resident had come to the center Sunday to seek medical aid.
Most of those seeking aid at the La Habra center have been homeowners with cracked walls and foundations needing repair. Roma Christia-Plant, a loan specialist with the Small Business Administration, said Monday that just 31 business owners had applied for aid so far.
At the same time, many residents have been deluged with offers from people bidding on repairs, an official with the state Contractors Licensing Board said.
Ray Hendrickson, who fielded questions about contractors at the La Habra center, said homeowners want to know how to find a contractor and how to judge his competence.
Three Bids Suggested
"We tell them to get at least three bids before signing anything," Hendrickson said. "We can also tell them if a contractor's license is valid, but we can't tell them if a particular contractor has had complaints lodged against them unless they fill out a form with the contractor's name and a bid. It takes about a week to get back a more detailed report on the contractor."
While the relief process at the center is running smoothly, at least one official expressed concern about the relatively few Latino residents who have sought assistance.
Ruth Daniel, a representative of Orange County Social Services who is bilingual, said officials were worried that Spanish-speaking residents who might qualify for aid were unaware of the services being offered.
"We know that there were a lot of Hispanic homeowners whose homes were damaged, but we have not seen that many here," Daniel said.
"We have been worried that maybe they have not gotten the word that help is available--that there are Spanish-speaking people here to assist them."
Jim Drago, a spokesman for the state office of emergency services, said that information about quake assistance has been provided to Spanish-speaking media and that more than 6,000 flyers have been posted in Latino areas hit hard by the quake.
All of the relief centers have assistants who can speak Spanish and some have Asian-language translators, Drago said. In addition, there are bilingual operators for the toll-free hot line (1-800-338-7693) FEMA has set up to provide general information.