Hurricane Laura evacuee, single mother, searches in vain for open Red Cross shelter for 4 days, 1,000 miles

HOUSTON – It’s been a long week for Savannah Roy and her two-year-old daughter, Zaila, after traveling about a thousand miles over four days, searching in vain for open Red Cross shelters in Louisiana and Texas.

Hurricane Laura devastated their hometown, Lake Charles, including the apartment complex where they lived, the church where Roy worshipped, the restaurant where she worked, and her grandma’s house.

On Saturday, Roy and her daughter hopped into an older sedan and drove 204 miles to promised shelter (she had called 211) in New Orleans, but by the time they got there, the shelters were full. Roy said she was then directed to Alexandria, Louisiana, another 200 miles away.

But shelters were full there by the time they arrived.

People in charge there told Roy Red Cross shelters would be open in Mesquite, Texas, near Dallas, 292 miles away, she said. By the time they arrived, however — you guessed it — the shelters were full, in Mesquite and in Dallas.

Red Cross officials (on the phone) then directed Roy to travel 246 miles to a Red Cross shelter in Houston, Forge Families Community Center, Roy said, which — she discovered when she arrived — is not actually a Red Cross shelter.

Four days, about a thousand miles, and now, limited gas and hotel money.

Forge Families called KPRC to let us know that Roy was one of many, many others Red Cross folks outside of Houston kept sending their way.

“It really seemed like the left hand and the right hand weren’t communicating, and as a result of that, there were families that were caught in the middle,” Forge Families director Dana Thomas said.

Red Cross responded to KPRC with a statement that did not explain the miscommunication problems. A representative for Texas Emergency Operations, which partners with Red Cross, said he also did not understand where communication broke down.

Houston locations were used by Red Cross for Hurricane Laura Shelter until a day after the storm, when the Red Cross redirected evacuees away from Houston to Dallas, Austin and San Antonio (cities further inland), the state rep said.

He added that the state is currently helping shelter 9,600 Hurricane Laura evacuees in those three Texas cities.

Roy had a hotel arranged for Tuesday night. After that, she’s not sure what she will do.