The Archdiocese of Los Angeles has signed a “master agreement” with the Red Cross to use parish halls and school gyms as Red Cross shelters for emergencies in Southern California. It’s the first time any diocese in the United States has partnered with the organization to provide shelter.  

So far, more than 50 parishes and Catholic schools have signed up.

The archdiocese has not committed any facility to this program. It’s up to each parish and school to decide if they want to be involved.

“If you are interested in pursuing this, the Red Cross will conduct a site visit to see if your facility meets it needs,” Msgr. Joseph Brennan, moderator of the Curia and vicar general, pointed out in a memo to pastors and parishes, parish business managers and school principals. “Your site might lack adequate space, bathroom facilities, handicapped accessibility or parking needed for a shelter.

“For each emergency situation, your site would be asked to participate. You are under no obligation and it is the pastor’s or principal’s decision whether or not your location would be used for any particular emergency situation.”

Msgr. Brennan explained that becoming a Red Cross shelter offers many benefits.

“You do not want to decide in the moment [of an emergency] to open up your door and become a shelter,” he noted. “If you do, you will be responsible for staffing and equipping the shelter as well as providing security and accepting liability if guests act improperly or illegally. These would all be at your own expense, without reimbursement, which could be quite expensive.”

He added, “Under this agreement between the Red Cross and the archdiocese, the Red Cross is responsible for food, supplies, security and staffing. … For all of these reasons, we ask you to register as a Red Cross shelter and not decide in the moment to become your own shelter.”

Pastors and principals who would like to become a Red Cross shelter should contact Eileen O’Brien, director of operations, at (213) 637-7618 or [email protected]. There is no deadline for the master agreement, but parishes and schools are asked to decide as soon as possible because the archdiocese is coordinating visits by the Red Cross.

“People will come to the Church and our facilities for help after a disaster because they know that is what we do — we help people, we serve people. So please help us prepare to serve our neighbors,” urged Msgr. Brennan.