Salvation Army takes in Gustav evacuees

First published in The Shorthorn in September 2008.

With the Family Life Center at capacity, one of the main concerns is space.

Hurricane Gustav evacuees from the Louisiana Gulf Coast are finding shelter at the Salvation Army Family Life Center on West Abram Street.

The City of Arlington reported they were expecting up to 500 evacuees as of Sunday evening. The city also has stand-by shelters at North Davis Church of Christ, Grace Community Church and Mission Arlington.

Office manager Tamra Robb said the university has allowed the Salvation Army to use Lot 35 on Border Place and UTA Boulevard for spillover parking. The Category 2 Hurricane Gustav reached land Monday, but some of the Louisiana Gulf Coast evacuees were already on their way to Arlington by Sunday.

Hester Charles, from Lafayette, La., took shelter in the Family Life Center’s gymnasium. She left Sunday at 1 p.m. and arrived in Arlington on Monday afternoon. She rode in a school bus filled with area evacuees all night without air conditioning. She had to leave her son and grandfather back home because they didn’t want to leave.

She said she would be heading home as soon as possible.

“I have to go back,” Charles said. “That’s my home.”

This is Van Nguyen’s second evacuation. She also left New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina hit the city three years ago. She said since her house isn’t paid off, she’ll be going back to the city once the storm clears.

New Orleans resident Yen Nguyen said she and her family of five are thinking of moving to Arlington permanently, because her children need a stable school. Mission specialist Kyle Allen said most people he’s talked to want to return home. He said some are even asking when the earliest transport is scheduled.

However, since the storm is still active, there are no bus routes into the evacuated areas, he said. Once the storm dies down, he said he will tell the evacuees about transportation. Allen’s main job is to reach out to the campus community and get them involved with the Salvation Army’s endeavors.

He said he would have loved to try and enlist more help from the university but there was no time.

Volunteer Robert Cerda was there early Monday morning when evacuees started to arrive. He said the main concern was food.

“People are hungry,” he said. Capt. Andy Miller, who is in charge of Family Life Center operation, said the two main concerns for any evacuee housing situation is food and space.

Miller said the center has both under control. The total capacity for the facility is 194, and 194 evacuees are already checked in. In addition, the center shelters 60 people unrelated to the Hurricane Gustav displacement. During Hurricane Katrina, the center sheltered evacuees for six weeks, Miller said.

He hopes it won’t take as long for Gustav, but they are prepared to shelter people as long as needed. The center will also shuttle evacuees to Wal-Mart every hour for supplies, Allen said. The center provided hot meals, beds and a live concert Monday night, Miller said.

He said the center is looking for more entertainers or bands. Students interested in providing entertainment or volunteering can contact the Family Life Center at 817-860-1836.

Posted in Journalism

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