Ike's Homeless Bide Time In Shelters Across Texas Across Texas, the Red Cross has opened shelters to help people whose homes were destroyed by Hurricane Ike. About 42,000 people slept in the shelters Saturday, and many are still using the cots lined up in gymnasiums, schools and churches — like one in Brazoria, a small town about an hour south of Houston.
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Ike's Homeless Bide Time In Shelters Across Texas

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Ike's Homeless Bide Time In Shelters Across Texas

Ike's Homeless Bide Time In Shelters Across Texas

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

It's Morning Edition from NPR News. Good morning, I'm Steve Inskeep.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

And I'm Renee Montagne. All over Texas, the Red Cross has opened shelters to house people whose homes were destroyed in Hurricane Ike. About 42,000 slept in those shelters Saturday night, and quite a few of them are still using the cots lined up in gymnasiums, churches, and schools around the state. NPR's Ari Shapiro visited a shelter in the small town of Brazoria, about an hour south of Houston.

ARI SHAPIRO: Dorothy Caldwell is the matriarch of her family. The clan is 15 people in all. They rode out the storm in Austin. Then the money ran out.

Ms. DOROTHY CALDWELL (Resident, Brazoria, Texas): We ain't got no lights. Both of my deep freezes spoiled with all of my meat in it, and my house smells awful.

SHAPIRO: So she brought her husband, kids, grandkids, and great-grandkids here to the gymnasium at the First Assembly of God Church in Brazoria. She says it was their only option.

Ms. CALDWELL: Right now, I'm just having a hard time. It's not home, never be home, but it's comfortable.

SHAPIRO: She works with senior citizens who need home care. So do many people in her family. The seniors have all evacuated. And until they return, the family has no income. She's hoping FEMA will come through. So far they haven't answered the phone.

Ms. CALDWELL: Well, I just have to take one day at a time, whatever they be. If they shut this down, I'm going back to my house because we don't have another shelter open here.

Ms. EVELYN PALTE (Shelter Supervisor, First Assembly of God, Brazoria): I would think we won't be here more than another few days, maybe a week.

SHAPIRO: Really?

Ms. PALTE: Yeah.

SHAPIRO: Evelyn Palte supervises this shelter. In all there are 12 volunteers here. One chops vegetables for dinner in the adjacent kitchen.

(Soundbite of chopping food)

SHAPIRO: People come through the front door and ask for ice, food, maybe a place to sleep. They fidget, apologize, and mumble their requests. Many of them look ashamed that they need help. Evelyn Palte flew from her home in Ohio to be here. She helped shelter Katrina evacuees three years ago. And she says Ike is different, at least in this part of the state.

Ms. PALTE: Hurricane Katrina, I had 2,400 people at Louisiana State University. That's a lot of people. Those people, it's - that was different, they're homeless, they had - they came up from New Orleans, none of them had anything except what they had on. A few people drove up and had cars, but that's it. I mean, they had nothing. And they knew they had no place to go back to or anything to go back to. These people just need shelter and help for now. As soon as they can get back in their homes, they'll be back to normal.

SHAPIRO: Last night, 16 people slept here. The shelter was prepared to take in 100 or more. They gave out around 900 meals in the last day. Palte says she's surprised more people didn't stay the night.

Ms. PALTE: I think a lot of people were afraid of looting and things. They didn't want to leave their homes.

SHAPIRO: Robert Hart decided not to leave his home, even though it's pretty much ruined. When the tree next to his trailer tipped over, the roots virtually upended the house. He's here to pick up a box full of food for his wife and three kids. They're sitting out in the car. He fights back tears while he talks.

Mr. ROBERT HART (Resident, Brazoria, Texas): Right now we're trying to go in the safest part of the house, and stay to one side of it, you know, try to keep the critters out by plugging the holes and whatnot, you know. Really, it's - I mean, we're trying to do stuff to stay as a family and, you know, stay together.

SHAPIRO: He says he cannot look more than a day into the future. He doesn't know what he'll do next or how he'll pay for it.

Mr. HART: No water, no electricity, so basically no plumbing, whatever, you know. All the insulation has been ripped out of the underneath of the house. I mean, you can go in one of the bathrooms and see straight through the tub to where you can see daylight because there's nothing underneath it. If our house falls apart that's - I mean, that's all we got, you know. That's about it.

SHAPIRO: Volunteers here say as the days go by stress increases. On one side of the church gym, a young woman carrying her child sits crying. When asked what the problem is, she says she doesn't want to talk. Ari Shapiro, NPR News, Brazoria, Texas.

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