News Brief

by Nathan Stubbs

Shelter Shuffling

Soon after Hurricane Rita passed, Cajundome and American Red Cross officials began ushering Hurricane Rita evacuees into a shelter in the Convention Center, while cautiously moving forward with plans to reopen the Cajundome as a shelter for Hurricane Katrina evacuees who had been evacuated before Rita made landfall.

"We want to make sure that we've exhausted our other registrants from Rita [before reopening the dome]," says American Red Cross Public Affairs Officer Donna Gillroy.

Starting Sunday afternoon through about midday Monday, the Convention Center had taken in 624 Hurricane Rita evacuees from Lake Charles, Sulphur and Cameron Parish, according to Gillroy. "Most of their homes are absolutely gone," she says.

The Cajundome sustained minor damages to roof paneling during Hurricane Rita, and the roof was expected to be repaired by mid-week. Gillroy said they were tentatively planning to bring Hurricane Katrina evacuees back to the dome on Thursday.

"We want to make sure we have adequate staff, adequate security. We really want to do it the right way because [the evacuees] are in a tough psychological and emotional position, so we want to make the transition as smooth as possible."

The process of moving evacuees from one shelter to another proved unsettling for many when the Cajundome moved approximately 850 Hurricane Katrina evacuees to two shelters in Shreveport last weekend. On Saturday, Cajundome Director Greg Davis told The Daily Advertiser that many of the evacuees had been "treated like criminals" after they arrived in Shreveport and were greeted by military guards with M-16s.

Gillroy says guards were outside the Southern University at Shreveport shelter with M-16s strapped on their backs, but that they did not show any aggression to the evacuees. She said many of the evacuees panicked due to compounding stress.

"Some of these people have been moved five times," she says. "Many of them are frightened to death. They didn't know exactly where they were going. They were embraced when they got there, but when they saw the soldiers they thought, 'Oh no. Now what's happening?' Wouldn't you?"