Louisiana Evacuees Rely On South Mississippi Shelters

By Trang Pham-Bui - bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Cots will be their beds for now and the gym is their bedroom. Now that Gustav is gone, hundreds of hurricane evacuees who've been staying in school shelters, have been transferred to the Donal Snyder Community Center.

Thirty members of a family from Thibodeaux, Louisiana, never thought they'd end up in Biloxi.

"We just left home and we just drove and drove 'till we got put off the road, and came here to Mississippi," said Germonique Coleman.

Baby Raegen is probably the youngest evacuee. She was born just five weeks ago. Raegen, her parents and seven other family members evacuated from Montegut, Louisiana.

"The eye passed over us," said Raegen's mom Ashley LeBlanc.

When asked if it was hard evacuating with a newborn, she responded: "Yes. Very hard. She didn't like the ride. She didn't want to stay in her seat."

After long hours on the road, and days away from home, frustration has set in.

"We appreciate everything that we did have, and we did have shelter, but the problem is we're hungry," said Beverly Robinson of Thibodeaux, LA.

Red Cross volunteers say they're doing what they can to make these temporary quarters comfortable.

"We will be feeding them. We will have hot meals available," said Red Cross Spokeswoman Raemona Welder. "We actually had a national spokesperson say this is the largest disaster relief that the Red Cross has organized since Katrina."

The community center can accommodate up to 500 evacuees. The Red Cross is opening another shelter at the Woolmarket Senior Citizens Center.

"We will not close any shelter until we have plans, and everyone is taken care of, and they have plans or somewhere to go," said Welder.

Many evacuees wonder if they even have homes to return to now.

"Everything was demolished. Yeah, everything's gone," said Coleman. "It's still home. It's damaged and it's gone, but I'd rather starve at home, than somewhere I don't know where I'm at."

There will be some shelter changes as well in Hancock County. On Wednesday morning, the Red Cross plans to close its two school shelters and open a shelter at Lagniappe Church on Demontlouzin Street in Bay St. Louis. And in Pearl River County, a shelter at Manna Ministries in Picayune is currently housing more than 220 people.