100 Hurricane Laura evacuees remain at the Austin Convention Center

Southwest

AUSTIN (KXAN) — More than 2,000 Hurricane Laura evacuees left their east Texas homes seeking shelter in Austin-area hotel rooms.

Days after Hurricane Laura caused devastation in parts of east Texas, the majority of these evacuees have since left. At the Austin Convention Center, you’ll find nearly 100 evacuees who remain.

“Personally I’m tired of going through it realistically. It seems like every other year you’re having to leave everything behind, and you’re having to rebuild everything,” said Beaumont evacuee Paul Bayard.

Bayard left and doesn’t plan on going back.

“I have nothing to go back to, no family. I’m basically indigent. It seems like there are a lot of opportunities here. I think it’s time to get a fresh start,” said Bayard.

Bryce Bencivengo with the City of Austin said the convention center is remaining open to evacuees hardest hit by Hurricane Laura, like those in Orange, Texas.

“At this point, we’ll be open as long as needed. In the coming days and weeks, we’ll be transferring over sheltering to the Red Cross and the state,” said Bryce Bencivengo, of the Homeland Security and Emergency Management Office with the City of Austin. “We’re still open to receive individuals. At some point that will transfer over, but it hasn’t yet.”

The American Red Cross is currently assisting the nearly 100 individuals who remain at the Austin Convention Center.

“If the plan going forward is that they are not going back, then at times we have assisted folks with bus tickets, and gas vouchers and in some cases airplane tickets to go someplace else that wasn’t home. That is great we are helping those folks return to something sorta like normalcy,” said Bill Dorman, a Red Cross volunteer.

Chantay Roberts will never forget the chaos of evacuating, as Hurricane Harvey’s floodwaters crept closer to her home. Like Paul Bayard, Roberts too decided to leave home.

“Losing all of my belongings, that was the nail in the coffin for me,” said Roberts. “To lose it, and have to start over, it stunk. I said, ‘Why would I take the chance on losing everything again?’”

Roberts said the Austin Disaster & Recovery Network helped her get back on her feet in the months, and years to come. She now lives in Pflugerville and volunteers with the organization.

“I really want people to understand that they help run every aspect. It’s not just gift cards, it’s toiletries, it’s pampers, clothing, medications. A lot of people affected, there’s long-term care that is needed from the hurricane impacts,” she said. “I really want everyone to know to please donate.”

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