Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Houston Mayor Opens Toyota Center as Additional Shelter for Harvey Evacuees

The Associated Press
Published: August 29,2017

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner announced Tuesday that the Toyota Center would be opened as an additional shelter for people displaced by Harvey.
Turner said the center was opened to alleviate crowding at the George R. Brown Convention Center, which exceeded its estimated capacity of 5,000 people.
The convention center is sheltering 10,000 people as of Tuesday, the Associated Press reports. Evacuees will still have to go to the convention center first before going to the downtown basketball arena. Turner thanked Rockets owner Les Alexander for letting the city use the facility and also thanked him for his donation of $10 million for Harvey relief efforts.
Turner says the number of people at the convention center has continued to grow because the facility is housing not only Houston residents but people from surrounding communities outside the city limits who are in need of shelter.
Volunteers pushed cots together to make space on the floor. Some people are laying out towels, blankets and strips of cardboard.
The second night inside the center was louder, more crowded and at times, more chaotic, the AP said. At one point, officers tended to two men lying unresponsive in front of an exit, pushing away onlookers. The men had taken drugs and would both recover within an hour.
Frustrations were growing. One person said she had only gotten one meal Monday while watching others take several helpings of food. Another person, Kevin Perkins, described sleeping on the floor and feeling accosted by police officers inside.
"It's hell," Perkins said.
He shook his head and walked away as Turner toured the convention center Monday and approached near where he was standing.
"All my stuff damaged. I have no clothes, no shoes, no nothing," he said.
While a daunting task for emergency responders, it's a far less dire situation than during Hurricane Katrina in 2005, when 30,000 evacuees filled New Orleans's Superdome during Hurricane Katrina.
At a news conference in Corpus Christi on Tuesday with President Donald Trump, FEMA Administrator Brock Long directly addressed the mistakes that occurred in the wake of Katrina, which first made landfall in Louisiana exactly 12 years ago.
Said Long: “We’re very aware of the issues at the convention center, but let me be clear: This is not the Superdome.”

Jackson Lee, D-Houston, who visited the shelter Sunday." data-reactid="29" type="text">Still, local officials said the center was prepared to meet the needs of evacuees.
Jackson Lee, D-Houston, who visited the shelter Sunday." data-reactid="29" type="text">"We feel that we have the resources and the knowledge not to have this be anything but safe for families, children and others who need support and safety," Sheila Jackson Lee, Texas Democratic Congresswoman, told the AP.
The center has requested the public donate more supplies to evacuees seeking shelter, including baby formula, diapers, hand sanitizer, non-perishable food, sweatsuits, socks, towels, bottles of water, comfort kits, blankets and pillows.
The American Red Cross says there are more than 17,000 people in Texas seeking refuge in shelters. Red Cross spokesman Don Lauritzen said Tuesday that there are 45 shelters in the Houston area, along the Gulf Coast and elsewhere. He says more are opening in Louisiana. Officials estimated that Harvey will force 30,000 Texans into them.
Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said Tuesday that the cavernous Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in that city is ready to hold upward of 5,000 people.
But Rawlings says it's not clear how many people will be housed at the Hutchison center because of the difficulty those in the Houston area are having finding dry roads and highways to travel along.
Airbnb also said they were offering free housing for evacuees from today until Sept. 1.
Patricia Cain was one of the affected evacuees to take shelter at Houston's convention center, the AP reported, arriving with no shoes and two oxygen tanks, arriving after being rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard. She brought along her son William, and grandson, who also came with no shoes.
“I live in a lake where there was once dry land,” William told a reporter.

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