Community Complains Evacuees' Shelter Conditions Are Unacceptable
First they came from the Cain Center, then here. That was a bad move for them to do," says evacuee Raquelle Royal. The New Orleans native is one of 100 evacuees moved from the Cain Center, an enclosed, recreational facility in Athens, to a nearby campsite called The Christian Youth Foundation.
"It was air-conditioned, it was sheltered, comfortable," says evacuee Monica Jenkins describing the Cain Center. KLTV 7 Reporter Christine Nelson asks, "Is the campsite more comfortable?" "No," answers Monica.
"Why don't you like it out here?," asks Nelson to another evacuee. "I prefer being home," he replied.
The campground has only four air-conditioned shelters, the rest have no A/C. Some cabins are screened in barely keeping unwanted guests out. "They have spiders, spiders, spiders. I stood up all last night watching my kids, nothing but spiders," says Raquelle. Most of the evacuees have to go outdoors and walk on dirt roads, through these woods to use the bathroom. If you have kids that could be several trips a day. It's not any better at night.
"It's dark. They have about three or four lights. You can't see where you're going," says Raquelle holding her one-year-old son. "I don't see why they moved them out here. And I was told there was a judge in Henderson County that made that decision," says volunteer Donna Steddum. That judge was David Holstein, now head of the Emergency Operations Center in Henderson County.
Reluctant to go on camera with us about the situation, the judge says he stands by his decision to place evacuees at this camp, in these conditions. "At that point I took my badge and said I won't do this. I will help these people in any way I can. I will not be a part of anything I think is not in their benefit," says former Cain Center volunteer Lonnie Hodges, who quit volunteering because he was against evacuees staying on campgrounds. "Our concern is the fact that they've been in extreme heat, we took them in a 65-degree facility, and now we've got them in extreme heat again," says Supplies Team Leader Kim Hodges. There's no telling how long these evacuees will be in these less than desirable conditions, bracing the Texas heat, while the debate gets even hotter.
Christine also talked to a representative from First United Methodist Church in Mabank. Dr. Sherry Nash says she personally spoke with Judge Holstein and offered the church facility for evacuees to use. That offer was declined.
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