Tent City offers temporary housing for evacuees

Published 5:27 pm Thursday, September 28, 2017

By Dawn Burleigh

The Orange Leader


A city within the city has been set up at the City of Orange Boat Ramp to provide temporary housing for those who have yet to return from evacuating or being rescued due to Tropical Storm Harvey which deluged the county with a historical amount of rain on Aug. 30, 2017.

Several residents have remained in shelters in Dallas, Austin and Nacogdoches while awaiting a place to stay once arriving home. With homes, belongings and vehicles lost in the rain event, many were without a place to live or house while repairing their homes and lives.

An effort between the county, state and cities, a tent city has been erected as a temporary housing option.

Baptist Children and Family services will manage the shelter operation that provides showers, toilets, laundry, meals, security, medical and management teams.

“If someone showed up today without a place to live, they would be able to stay here,” Current Incident Coordinator of Shelter Operations for the State Kevin Binnin said.

With 150 cots set up for the first day, 39 people resided in the shelter on Monday night. Teams were standing by to set up to 250 cots if the need demanded.

“46 residents were bused in and signed into the transitional shelter located at the city of Orange boat ramp.  10 residents had family or friends picking them up and were able to check out.  There were 3 walk-ins seeking shelter, bringing this evenings total to 39,” Orange County Sheriff’s Office Criminal Investigator Janois Grizzaffi said in a press release. “The original total of those to be returning were higher, but several residents decided not to return to Orange County at this time.”

Kevin Binnin said the goal for the city is to help return the individuals to normalcy.

“Transportation is available for any health related appointment,” Binnin said. “The goal is to regain independence. For other transportation, such as to the store, they will need to sue local transportation.”

Within the area is a kitchen where meals are prepared before transported to the dining area.

“We have a super high degree of public health practices,” Binnin said. “No one will be allowed to serve themselves. Everything will be handed to them by someone wearing gloves.”

Dietary needs such as low sodium, low sugar and in at least one instance, vegan, are being met.

A medical clinic is also on site to provide care as needed.

“There is a temporary ‘incare’ center if needed,” Binnin said. “Flu shots are available to everyone. Disease spread is an issue in a shelter so we provide the incare and flu shot to help avoid it.”
Along with medical, shelter and food, local law enforcement will be on duty 24 hours a day.

“We have had very low issues in Port Arthur,” Binnin said.

Orange County Judge Stephen Brint Carlton said the housing was a resource the county did not have available.

“I thank the cities for helping find a suitable shelter location,” Carlton said. “Thanks to [Orange Mayor] Sims for providing the area.”

Orange Mayor Jimmy Sims said officials have searched for a long time for a location suitable to meet the needs of the ‘city’.

“It is time to get our citizens back home,” Sims said.

Carlton added officials are still working with FEMA for other housing options.