ALEX CHADWICK, host:
This is DAY TO DAY. I'm Alex Chadwick.
Evacuees who are sheltered in Houston's Astrodome complex watched President Bush's speech last night with skepticism. On TVs outside a shelter in the complex, many who watched said they doubted the president's promises. From Houston, NPR's Carrie Kahn reports.
CARRIE KAHN reporting:
Officials at the Reliant Center shelter turned on the sets minutes before the president walked out on the lawn of the New Orleans Jackson Square. Soon a small crowd gathered.
(Soundbite of president's speech)
President GEORGE W. BUSH: Good evening.
KAHN: But not very many stayed to watch the entire speech. Some swore as they walked past the crowd. Seven-year-old Patrick Theer(ph) booed.
PATRICK THEER: I say, `Boo.'
KAHN: Darrell Edwards had the same sentiment. He didn't shout out at the TV like many, but he kept shaking his head back and forth, especially when the president promised that New Orleans would be rebuilt. Edwards says he just doesn't believe it.
Mr. DARRELL EDWARDS: No. New Orleans won't be right for a long time. You can't drink the water. Ain't no gas.
KAHN: Annette James(ph) started leaving five minutes into the speech.
Ms. ANNETTE JAMES: Well, I'm going up to the store, get some soap powder and bleach.
KAHN: She was watching the president with a friend but said she just couldn't listen anymore. James Lilly didn't blame Mr. Bush for what had happened to her home or city.
Ms. JAMES LILLY: People blaming him but you really can't blame him because he don't know about what's going on here. FEMA was supposed to get us houses. We don't have houses, not everybody. I don't. But we got to move together because the money that we have got to last. So we got to move together to split the rent to have somewhere to stay.
KAHN: Most watched a bit, said their piece and then left. Fifty-three-year-old Patricia Valentine sat through the entire speech. Confined to a wheelchair, Valentine took notes as the president talked, scribbling on the back of a Communist Party newspaper she had picked up at the back gate of the complex.
Ms. PATRICIA VALENTINE: LBJ said almost the same thing 40 years ago, right after the civil rights movement, about the home exemption and jobs and stuff. And none of that never materialized, man. Bull (censored).
KAHN: Sarcastically, she added that she can't wait to go home and sign up for her $5,000 job training and homestead exemption, two proposals Mr. Bush outlined. Valentine, who had been separated from her family for the past two weeks, says she wished she had more trust in her elected officials.
Ms. VALENTINE: Baby, it's a class thing; the rich going to get richer and the poor are going to get poorer. Ain't nothing going to change.
KAHN: What is changing, though, is where evacuees, like Valentine, are going to be housed. Officials at the Astrodome's complex have been trying to consolidate operations and the three giant shelters here. Yesterday, nearly 900 evacuees were moved out of the Astrodome and set up next door in the air-conditioned Reliant Arena, home of many of Houston's rodeos. Today more than 1,400 evacuees left in the Reliant Convention Center will head over to the arena. Officials say it's more efficient to have all services and evacuees under one roof. But Denine McKinney(ph), a 41-year-old grandma here with her three daughters and two grandchildren, has had enough. She says she won't move into the arena.
Ms. DENINE McKINNEY: They're not moving me because I went and got me a ticket to leave. I'm not letting them pack me in that building with all those people, you know. I wouldn't bring my daughters over there to save my soul.
KAHN: Her family got enough plane tickets provided free by Continental Airlines to head back to Louisiana. Officials at the Astrodome complex say the number of people still living in the shelters is dropping fast. Eight hundred moved out yesterday alone. They hope to close down the facilities and get the remaining 2,500 evacuees into temporary housing by this weekend.
Carrie Kahn, NPR News, Houston.
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