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Quake Centers Help Hundreds Apply for Aid

October 25, 1987|MARILYN GARATEIX | Times Staff Writer

While business at the Alhambra earthquake relief center has been so brisk that extra staff and volunteers have been brought in, activity at the Rosemead center, less than five miles away, has slowed considerably.

By the end of last week, 2,600 people had received information from the Alhambra center about how to get help in repairing damage from the Oct. 1 quake and its aftershocks, Patricia Beecham of the Federal Emergency Management Agency said.

Last week alone, more than 800 appointments were scheduled in Alhambra, Beecham said. "The center will be open as long as it is needed," she said.

Needs Identified

People seeking aid fill out registration forms identifying their needs and are referred to federal, state and local agencies.

Beecham said some of the applicants were relatives of people too ill or infirm to apply in person.

In contrast to the Alhambra center, the Rosemead center has been averaging about 10 appointments a day; about 1,350 applications had been processed by noon Thursday.

Beecham said more people have gone to the Alhambra center because the area nearby was hit harder by the quake and because the Almansor Gym, where the center is located, is well known.

"This is one of the oldest areas around. It's an old building and a focal point of the community," Beecham said.

Volunteer Interpreters

One of the volunteers brought into the Alhambra center last week was Kenneth Mak, a senior at Alhambra High School who, along with 11 other students fluent in foreign languages, has been serving as an interpreter.

"Most of (the applicants) don't understand what kind of help they can get or that there even is help," said Mak, who has mainly been helping Chinese-speaking people.

Chi Li of Alhambra, who bought his home only two months ago, came to the center to apply for a Small Business Administration loan. Li, who spent two hours with Mak filling out a loan application, got approval for a $10,000 loan on the spot, Mak said.

Others, however, have not been so lucky.

Of 3,350 SBA loan applications processed at the Alhambra and Rosemead centers, 600 have been rejected, said Margie Tiritilli, public information officer for the Emergency Management Agency, which oversees the seven application centers for quake victims in Los Angeles County.

The applications were rejected because officials felt that the people seeking the loans could not pay them back, Tiritilli said. The unsuccessful applicants were referred to the state Office of Emergency Services, which administers the Individual Family Grant program.

Sixty-seven percent of the requests were for home repair loans; the rest were from businesses.

Tiritilli said most people have been seeking funds for alternative housing while repairs are being made on their homes, or information about loans and tax problems.

Arrie Moore of the county Department of Mental Health, which has staff members at all relief centers, said she is still working with people concerned about the possibility of another quake.

"A lot of people are still very anxious, and some people are still sleeping in their clothes waiting for the big one," Moore said.

Sam Wong, 81, and his wife, Sue, 79, of Monterey Park, who went to the Alhambra center for help, said they are still worried.

"She feels scared and afraid," Wong said.

Although the relief centers remain open, the Red Cross shut its shelter at the Joslyn Center in Alhambra on Oct. 18. "We only had about five or six people left," said Tom Wersel, service center manager for the Red Cross.

However, Wersel said the Red Cross will maintain an office at the Joslyn Center until the nearby relief centers close.

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