September 02, 2005
Astrodome not turning away evacuees

Via Greg comes this message from Harris County Judge Robert Eckels.

The Astrodome site is not turning away evacuees. The gates are open. When a bus arrives, medical personnel board the bus and determine the medical needs of the persons on board. They are then unloaded and given food and water.

We currently have approximately 18,000 evacuees on site- 15,000 in the Astrodome and 3,000 in the Reliant Arena. The Reliant Arena is a temporary shelter, a transitional site. Its purpose is to assess the medical needs of the evacuees and provide food and water. They will be sent to another shelter as soon as the location of the shelter has been determined.

Reliant Center is now being used as a shelter. Reliant Center can hold approximately 11,000 people. The George R. Brown Convention Center in downtown Houston will open as a shelter in the immediate future.

Reliant Stadium is not being used as a shelter. The Houston Texans will play football in Reliant Stadium unaffected by the operations in the Astrodome, Reliant Center, and Reliant Arena.

Dallas and San Antonio shelters are open. Dallas can accommodate 12,500 in several shelters set up in the city. San Antonio can accommodate 25,000 evacuees in several shelters set up in the city.

The Houston area does not expect large numbers of evacuees to continue to flood the area. The Unified Command is currently developing plans to process the evacuees and determine their final destination.

Consideration is being made to send some of the overflow to shelters in Dallas, San Antonio, and Huntsville.

From a press release put out by US Rep. Chet Edwards after the U.S. House of Representatives appropriated $10.5 billion in emergency funding for hurricane relief efforts:

The President's action makes Federal funding available to the State and all 254 counties of the State of Texas. Specifically, assistance is available to State and eligible local governments for emergency protective measures that are undertaken to save lives and protect public health and safety. Emergency protective measures, including direct Federal assistance, will be provided at 100 percent Federal funding. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: FEMA (202) 646-4600.


On Thursday, Edwards asked the Department of Veterans Affairs about the possibility of using vacant space at the Waco VA hospital for shelter for those displaced in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. He was told by the Central Texas VA system that 60 beds in Waco and 30 in Temple, which are in empty wings or buildings, would be offered. Edwards is working with the VA to determine if more space is available for any evacuees coming to Central Texas.

"VA hospitals are uniquely prepared to assist in times of national tragedy, and I am working with the Central Texas VA system to utilize space at the Waco VA hospital to assist in that vital effort," said Edwards, ranking Democrat on the House Military Quality of Life and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Subcommittee. "I think the VA is moving ahead, but we have to be decisive in this situation with families in dire need, and I am going to urge the VA to not let any bureaucratic process slow down needed services to victims of the hurricane."

Via email from Skye Kilaen:

I know there's a Red Cross hotline, but folks can also call the state's information and referral network by dialing 2-1-1. If they're using a Lousisiana cell phone and 2-1-1 doesn't work, they can call 1-888-312-4567. 2-1-1 can provide shelter location information, information about access to available medical care (such as dialysis), requests for food, requests for prescription assistance, requests for diapers and formula, information related to accessing out of state Food Stamp or other benefits, and donation and volunteer information. (I'm told informally that the wait time hasn't exceeded 5-7 minutes in the last couple of days, and they've called in additional volunteers to staff the lines this weekend so they can continue to provide help.)

The Department of State Health Services has developed two Katrina-related web pages that will serve as resources to the general public and health professionals. They will be updating these pages as information becomes available:

Hurricane Katrina Information and Resources

Hurricane Katrina Information for Health-Care Professionals and Allied Fields

Anyone receiving Social Security payments that have been interrupted by Hurricane Katrina can go to any Social Security office to get an emergency payment. Social Security is working with the Louisiana Governor's office to identify locations for temporary mail delivery. Any Social Security field office can make payments in critical cases. For information about changing mailing addresses, direct deposit, or locating the nearest Social Security office, call 1-800-772-1213 or go online at

Via email from Larissa Lindsay, this is just plain ugly.

"Did you escape the hurricane without your birth control?" asks Planned Parenthood of Houston and Southeast Texas.

"As a courtesy to women fleeing Hurricane Katrina, we will offer one free cycle (one month) of birth control or one free Emergency Contraception kit to women" who come to a Houston-area Planned Parenthood clinic and produce a valid Louisiana or Mississippi driver's license.

The group's website says the offer is good until September 10.

The generosity does not impress a pro-life group that considers birth control pills and emergency contraception abortifacients.

"It is absolutely unconscionable that Planned Parenthood would use the tragedy of hurricane Katrina to push its shameless agenda on the American public," said Jim Sedlak, executive director of American Life League's STOPP International.

Thousands of people displaced by the Hurricane are being moved from the New Orleans Superdome to the Houston's Astrodome.

"In New York City in 2001, Planned Parenthood used the 9/11 attacks to publicize its programs by offering free contraceptives and abortions for the week after the terrorists struck," said Sedlak.

"Now the organization is exploiting one of the worst natural disasters in American history for cheap publicity by offering one month's supply of free birth control and so-called emergency contraception to victims of Katrina.

"If Planned Parenthood really wants to help, it should donate a portion of the millions of dollars in profits it makes every year to aid in the victims' plights," Sedlak said.

He called Planned Parenthood's latest stunt disgusting and inappropriate but not surprising: "The bottom line is that Planned Parenthood is out to promote its own agenda and will stop at nothing to take advantage of an opportunity to do so."

What a detestable person he is. Putting aside the fact that some women (like my sister when she was a teenager) take the pill to regulate their periods, there's other reasons why contraception will be needed, as Amanda pointedly reminds us. I'm just appalled.

Since I've seen the issue of international response raised elsewhere, I thought I'd point out this (via Radley Balko), and this (via Kos).

(I know there's other news today. I haven't got the heart to care. Maybe tomorrow, maybe not.)

I dropped off some clothing at the St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store on Washington Ave and some food and diapers at the Houston Food Bank this afternoon. The Food Bank was a madhouse, and I mean that in a very positive way. Tons of stuff was being dropped off, and they had more than enough volunteers. Let's all remember that as with the tsunami, there will be an ongoing, very likely long-term need for donations and volunteer support.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on September 02, 2005 to Hurricane Katrina | TrackBack

I can't comment on the irrational responses to PP's donated contraception. The vein in my forehead throbs overmuch right now.

However. One note on Robert Eckels' statement. He says the dome isn't refusing evacuees, and pointedly outlines the procedure for when buses arrive. But what about people on foot and in cars, who have run out of $$$ for hotels, etc.? That's been in the news here in Colorado, and I think Eckels is sidestepping that issue.

Posted by: Ellen on September 2, 2005 6:27 PM

Screw the Texans. They're not playing a game in there for several weeks. Somebody tell Bob to get off his ass and let them use that damn stadium we built for him.

Posted by: john on September 2, 2005 9:24 PM

I originally volunteered at the Houston Food Bank, but found one right here at home that is part of a netwrok supporting 30 families. I will be there at 10am this mroning to sort donated food items.

As a matter of fact we've got 3,000 Katrina victims in shelters and hotels here in Galveston county.

And no doubt more will be showing up as the rescue op goes on.

Posted by: ttyler5 on September 3, 2005 2:40 AM

Hey john -

We've got to have our priorities. Sure, we'd like to help those starving people and all, but we've got to have our FOOTBALL!

Posted by: Snide Commenter on September 3, 2005 7:49 AM

Other organizations alike myself are trying to help out, my charter school has enough room for about 30 families with school aged children (k-8) and I have been calling everyone from the Red Cross, Fema, NOLa, Salvation Army, United Way, Craigs etc...list to the gov't officials in each state but no one has returned my calls. I have buses to come get the families and food, clothing, shoes, school supplies, toiletries, a school for the children! I feel as though I am not good enough to help but yet there are so many people crying and asking for help!!!!!!
Call me 480-226-7339

Posted by: kisha spellman on September 5, 2005 11:50 PM