Mega-shelter to open in Austin for Harvey evacuees

It was 12 years ago Tuesday that Hurricane Katrina made landfall becoming one of the deadliest hurricanes in U.S. history.
               
In Austin, the Convention Center soon filled with evacuees. The shelter was described as a "city within a city" -- child care, a post office, even a hair salon.
               
Now in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey the Convention Center is once again about to become a so-called "mega-shelter."
               
"If Texans come to Austin seeking shelter we're going to find shelter," Adler said.

The Austin City Council held an emergency meeting Tuesday morning and heard updates from city officials.  There are between 500 and 600 evacuees in Austin shelters at the moment but that's about to change.  The State of Texas has asked Austin for help.

"They are in need of shelter space for 7,000 guests.  We are looking at all the facilities that we have available to determine what our capacity is going to be," said Director of Homeland Security and Emergency Management Juan Ortiz.

The first step is opening the mega-shelter at the convention center.

"That can take about 2,500 people, maybe a little bit more," Adler said.

And that number gives evacuees a little room to breathe.

"It's really not how many people we can cram into the Convention Center but it's really trying to find that ideal number that we can maximize the number of people we can place in the Convention Center but also be looking for the needs of the guests," Ortiz said.

The city says when an evacuee walks into the mega-shelter the first thing staff done is a basic needs assessment: make sure they have toothbrush, towels, clothing, etc.  Counseling and medical services will also be there.

Bristel Minsker with the Red Cross says over the weekend they trained about 2,000 new volunteers.  The mega-shelter will be their chance to get to work.

"We're going to have to set up the cots, get ready for people to come and it's going to take a lot of volunteers to run," Minsker said.

The city says the mega-shelter will be ready for evacuees in a matter of days.

"We're still working on that.  Probably in the next 24 to 48 hours, I don't have a specific time frame, it depends on how fast we are able to convert the convention center into a small community and we're working real hard to make that happen," Ortiz said.

Mayor Adler repeatedly pointed out this morning no one will be checking immigration status at the Austin shelters. He says the shelters are for anybody and everybody getting away from Harvey.
               
If you need information on shelters, the city says to call 3-1-1.

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