"The Most Powerful Pages on The Planet"
Ike Evacuees Struggle for Survival
Fear Loss of Shelter, Homelessness
Lone Star Power Pages
LUFKIN- As state officials focus on rescue efforts in Galveston, hundreds of residents from Beaumont and Port Arthur are sitting in shelter in Lufkin feeling forgotten and uncertain about their futures.
This week could be their last one in the shelter without more volunteers and financial assistance.
“I could never have imagined things being like this,” said Texas activist and filmmaker Ricky Jason. “Life is on hold and out of our hands and we have no one to turn to.”
Jason is living in a shelter with about 150 others from Beaumont, Port Arthur, Nederaland, Orange and Houston chased from their homes by Hurricane Ike last week.
“It appears Galveston is more important than Beaumont and Port Arthur,” he said. “Why is the media only focused on them, rather than us. Is it because we are Black folks needing help over here?”
According to Jason, residents face an uncertain future at the Keltys First Baptist Church Shelter in Lufkin because the FEMA, The Red Cross and state officials have not given any assurances that the shelter will continue to be open to stricken residents.
The shelter is operating on the bare minimums providing only the basics of shelter, bedding, hygiene and a minimum meal barely meeting basic daily nutritional requirements.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry is demanding that FEMA respond quicker with help and assistance for displaced residents and continues to urge them to stay put.
“Residents who have evacuated, stay where you are,” said Gov. Perry. “The worst thing that could happen is for people who are in a safe area where there is food, water and electricity to return to communities that have yet to have essential services restored.”
Power companies in areas affected by Hurricane Ike continue to work around the clock to restore electricity. To date, power has been restored to 700,000 customers; however 2.2 million customers remain without power. The Public Utility Commission (PUC) of Texas has launched a feature on its website to allow customers to check power outages by entering their utility provider and zip code at http://www.puc.state.tx.us/files/ike.cfm.
“We need help now because we can’t go home. We have no power, no sewerage and no water services,” a frustrated Jason said. “Now they are telling us we may not be able to stay here because of the lack of funding support for evacuees. I know what the homeless feel like now.”
Derrick Collins brought his family of 11 out of Port Arthur running from Ike, but now is worried that he may not be able to find shelter for his family after Wednesday.
“This is a communication issue and it makes me very upset,” he said. “FEMA is not talking to us, the Red Cross is not talking or helping us and don’t know what the future holds.
Both Jason and Collins said it is impossible to return to the city because officials are not allowing residents back in and damage to neighborhoods is so extensive that it could take another four to six weeks to restore power and services that could make conditions livable again in the cities.
“We feel tensions growing,” he said. “We want answers and we want it now.” As of Monday afternoon, 295 shelters were open throughout the state housing more than 34,000 evacuees; more than 720 truckloads of water and 560 truckloads of ice have been distributed throughout the storm-affected areas.
The State of Texas currently has 49 Points of Distribution (PODs) open. For a listing of the most current POD locations, visit www.governor.state.tx.us/hurricane/recovery/11167. The state will continue to supply resources as needed. There are also several FEMA-operated PODs open throughout the disaster area.
Texas residents who have been displaced by Hurricane Ike who evacuated to another state may call 1-877-541-7905 to reach the Texas 2-1-1 network and obtain information on how and where to apply for food stamp benefits or seek additional assistance.
Texas residents displaced by Hurricane Ike who evacuated to another area of Texas may call 2-1-1 from any Texas landline or Texas cell phone to obtain information on how and where to apply for food stamp benefits or seek additional assistance.
Janice Carrier, who lives in the shelter with her husband and grandchildren, said going back is not an option.
“We went back after Hurricane Rita and it was horrible,” she said. “Being here is far better than going back and I hope we are allowed to stay longer.”
She said the family groups have come together at the shelter and are trying to make the best of the situation.
While shelter personnel have been responsive, she worries that all that could come to a screeching halt without word from FEMA.
“They have treated us with dignity and respect,” she said. “The best part is we are with family. We have faith, feel blessed and will trust God to guide our steps.”