Astrodome Nearly Empty of Evacuees

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Ed Mayberry of member station KUHF in Houston reports that most hurricane evacuees have moved out of the Astrodome. Thousands fleeing the devastation of New Orleans found temporary shelter in Houston.

FARAI CHIDEYA, host:

Shortly after buses transferred thousands of hurricane victims to Houston, the city cleared scheduled events from its Astrodome through the end of the year. The stadium became a temporary home for more than 25,000 people, including many who'd endured terrible conditions in New Orleans' Superdome and convention center. But Houston officials and volunteers have relocated most of the survivors after less than three weeks. Ed Mayberry of member station KUHF in Houston has this report.

ED MAYBERRY reporting:

Thousands of evacuees have moved to smaller shelters, the homes of relatives, apartments and public housing in Houston and elsewhere. Only a few hundred remain in a building near the Astrodome, including Lynn Daigle(ph).

Ms. LYNN DAIGLE (Hurricane Evacuee): Houston's been wonderful. Everybody's arms been wide open, people from all over the world come here and just welcomed us and loved us.

MAYBERRY: Daigle says her own children didn't help her leave a women's shelter in New Orleans where she'd been living.

Ms. DAIGLE: Nobody, like, called me up and said, `Mom, come on, we're gonna get you out of this, you know, town.' No. So--and I'm thinking, `All these people love and care for us so much,' and I'm thinking, `What's wrong with my children?'

MAYBERRY: Daigle plans to stay in Houston, but other shelter inhabitants are headed to other destinations, courtesy of FEMA.

Unidentified Man: So we've got seven here, right? Two families, seven? Amtrak. You wanted it on the 20th. OK?

Unidentified Woman: Yeah.

Unidentified Man: Just make sure you get to the station at least two hours in advance, all right?

Unidentified Woman: OK.

Unidentified Man: Don't lose this. This is just as good as money.

Glen, where are you?

GLEN: Right here.

Unidentified Man: OK, Glen. This is your bus ticket, OK?

MAYBERRY: New Orleans resident Edward Sears(ph) displays his one-way ticket out.

Mr. EDWARD SEARS (Hurricane Evacuee): I'm going from here to Baton Rouge, which is one-hour flight. What I'm going to do next, my plan is to go to my son, try to find some work, go into New Orleans, helping to clean up. If not, I'm going to lay there until they announce that it's all right to come back to your last apartment that you had in Orleans Parish.

MAYBERRY: Guy Rankin runs the Harris County Housing Authority, and he's in charge of the local Katrina housing task force.

Mr. GUY RANKIN (Harris County Housing Authority): Ladies and gentlemen, I am tired but I'm very, very happy. We've housed thousands and thousands of people from this Astrodome complex, and we plan to house thousands more.

MAYBERRY: It's been hard to help large families find apartments with three or more bedrooms. Some older evacuees are harder to relocate because they need nursing assistance or first-floor apartments without stairs. Housing official Rankin says the work won't be over when evacuees leave the shelters.

Mr. RANKIN: Most important, it's not to leave somebody out, take them out of this box, put them on another box, and then don't provide any services to make them a part of the community.

MAYBERRY: Houston officials say they are committed to keeping shelter facilities open for as long as they're needed. For NPR News, I'm Ed Mayberry in Houston.

CHIDEYA: This is NPR News.

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