City Hall

'We Were So Much Better Than We Were With Katrina': Dallas Closes Harvey Mega-Shelter

Dallas Fire and Rescue personnel set up cots in the convention center's parking garage.
Dallas Fire and Rescue personnel set up cots in the convention center's parking garage. Mike Rawlings via Twitter
Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings announced Wednesday the closure of the emergency mega-shelter for people displaced by Hurricane Harvey. The shelter occupied the bottom floor of the Kay Bailey Hutchinson Convention Center's parking structure for the better part of a month. There simply aren't enough evacuees left — less than 300 at last count — to keep the big shelter open, so the city is reopening one of the smaller shelters it used as Hurricane Harvey bore down on the Texas coast.

The mayor said the shelter at one point housed more than 3,500 registered guests. "There are 221 individuals left," Rawlings said. "Those folks are going to be moved to the Tommie Allen Recreation Center."

Of the evacuees who remain in Dallas, about half plan to return to the Beaumont-Port Arthur-Orange area once their homes in the Golden Triangle are accessible again, Rawlings said. Everyone else plans to remain in the city of Dallas, he said.

"A hundred individuals have decided to stay," Rawlings said. "They are completely homeless from what the storm has done, and they have chosen to stay."
click to enlarge Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings addressed the media Sept. 1 at the convention center. - STEPHEN YOUNG
Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings addressed the media Sept. 1 at the convention center.
Stephen Young
Evacuees choosing to build a life in Dallas will receive assistance from the Mayor's Disaster Relief Fund, established by the city after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. About $700,000 remained in the fund before Harvey, the mayor said, but it's grown to more than $1.2 million, thanks to donations given in August and September. 

"I'm proud of city staff, proud of the city's citizens and for of all the nonprofits that have bonded together to make [Harvey's aftermath] an example of Dallas' generosity," Rawlings said. "We have money for bus transportation. We have money to put people into apartments to make sure that they get up on their feet. We have Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance and Dallas Catholic Charities case workers vetting each of those individuals [set to receive housing assistance]. Upon completion of the vetting process, case workers will offer their clients housing options and match them up so no one will go homeless."

City of Dallas shelters have served 86,000 meals in the 26 days since storm evacuees first arrived in the city. Walmart, which operated a pharmacy at the convention center, filled 3,200 prescriptions for 2,600 patients, Rawlings said. "I believe when we look back on this time that we were so much better than we were with Katrina."
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Stephen Young has written about Dallas news for the Observer since 2014. He's a Dallas native and a graduate of the University of North Texas.
Contact: Stephen Young