By Joe Farkus, NDG Contributing Writer
Dallas is preparing for thousands of evacuees from the Houston area due to the damage and destruction caused by Hurricane Harvey and the wide-spread flooding and rainfall left in its wake. According to various local law enforcement agencies, at least 10 people have been killed due to Harvey – the worst storm to hit the Houston area in half a century. An Associated Press report lists tens of billions of dollars in property damage, and one of Houston’s top energy providers, CenterPoint Energy, is reporting more than 90,000 of their customers alone in the Houston area are without power as of Tuesday morning.
As evacuees continue to make their way to Dallas, at least three Dallas recreation centers have begun taking in those in need of shelter: Walnut Hills Recreation Center, Samuell Grand Center, and Tommie M. Allen Center in South Dallas. All three are currently staffed by Red Cross and Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) members. As of Tuesday, only Samuell Grand and Tommie M. Allen are still taking in evacuees.
“When you look at what happened in Katrina, we had 28,000 individuals come to the Dallas area, and they were here for months,” Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings told C-SPAN Tuesday. “Making sure we integrate them into schools, making sure we integrate them into housing – and medical needs is going to be of the utmost importance.”
The mayor tried to reassure immigrants to not be afraid to seek assistance, concerned their legal status will be an issue.
“We are not asking for immigration status or papers from anyone at any of our shelters. We are using every resource available to assist evacuees. Our priority is protecting and sheltering our fellow Texans,” Rawlings shared via his Facebook page on Wednesday.
Due to the thousands expected to arrive in Dallas over the next week, the Kay Bailey Hutchinson Convention Center’s parking garage became a “mega shelter” Tuesday – able to house 5,000 individuals at one time. Some officials are concerned that simply won’t be enough and are exploring other options, as upwards of 9,000 people are expected to arrive at the Convention Center this week.
“Right now, we’re just focused on getting this center opened, and then the state has asked us to start lining up other mega-centers. We may have as many as we had in Katrina again this year, and so we want to be prepared for those tens of thousands of people who come in,” said Rawlings.
As the city prepares to welcome evacuees, various organizations in Dallas are doing their part to assist in the effort. The Perot Museum of Nature and Science near downtown Dallas is currently offering free admission to any family in Dallas due to the storm damage from now through September 30. All that is required take advantage of the Perot Museum’s program is a photo ID and proof of residency proving one’s residency in one of the counties affected by the storm.
How you can help Hurricane Harvey evacuees
There are also several ways Dallas residents can assist the effort to care for evacuees. For even more resources, visit the list of resources around town here.
- The non-profit Trusted World is receiving donation items at their donation center located at 15660 N. Dallas Parkway between the hours of 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. during the week. Items needed include baby food, wipes, and diapers, toiletries, feminine hygiene products, and nonperishable food.
- Dallas ISD is now receiving donations and accepting volunteers and is asking prospective donors and volunteers to contact Usamah Rodgers, Assistant Superintendent of Strategic Initiatives and External Relations, at 972-925-5477 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Volunteers are encouraged to first register online at https://dallasisd.voly.org.
- The United Way of Dallas is accepting monetary donations at https://unitedwaydallas.org/harveyrelief/ and the Dallas Convention Center is accepting volunteer applications at https://www.voly.org/.
- For those looking to volunteer at the three recreation centers currently taking in evacuees, the City of Dallas is requesting people to contact 211 or the individual recreation centers themselves to find out what supplies are currently needed.
- The Humane Society of the United States Animal Rescue Team is accepting donations at humanesociety.org/harvey or by texting LOVE to 20222, to donate $10 to its Disaster Relief Fund according to Dallas CultureMap. The SPCA has set up a temporary animal shelter near the Kay Bailey Hutchinson Convention Center so evacuees can relatively close to their pets. If you are interested in serving as a short-term foster family for any Houston pets, please visit www.spca.org/foster.