Red Cross: Shelters Wanted

With the start of hurricane season about a week away now, the Houston Chapter of the American Red Cross is asking local churches and community centers to volunteer as disaster shelters in the event of a big storm. Houston Public Radio's Jack Williams reports.

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We all remember the pictures during Katrina and Rita, packed Red Cross Shelters across the region, with thousands of evacuees and local residents taking refuge. There's a good chance that most shelters will never get used during this hurricane season, but the Greater Houston American Red Cross' Aaron Claypool says it's all about being ready.

"The goal is to simply just be prepared like it was last season where there was zero shelter activity for the area as compared to something like the year before that, when of course Katrina and Rita caused us to activate a lot of shelters. Point is you never know what's going to happen. It's always best to be prepared and that's what this is all about."

Claypool is referring to a campaign to get more churches and community centers trained as disaster shelters. Almost 90 shelters opened in the wake or Rita and 35 were opened after Katrina. Claypool says the Red Cross takes care of all expenses involved in sheltering.

"You receive insurance for any damages you may have received, you know, wear and tear on your facility or building as well as reimbursement for any purchases or expenses you've incurred during that time. So the shelter wins because that are always reimbursed in full for those expenses and the Red Cross wins because we can safely say that we have these people in the community willing to help us out."

During Katrina and Rita, Red Cross shelters were used primarily for people from other areas. The Red Cross' Russell Hubbard says if a hurricane comes straight at Houston, its likely shelters won't be operating south of I-10 until the danger has passed.

"It's really going to depend on the situation and we'll actively open shelters in those areas that need them. Of course we're not going to open them in areas that are going to be directly affected by a large-scale disaster."

Hubbard says the Red Cross always welcomes new shelter volunteers.

"You can never have enough. Our goal ultimately is to have a shelter in every zip code. We would like to be able to have churches that aren't involved get involved and those that are involved get up-to-date and trained."

There is a Shelter Rally this evening starting at 7 o'clock for registered shelters and churches and community centers that want to become shelters. The Rally is at the American Red Cross building at 2700 Southwest Freeway and Kirby.

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