Hurricane evacuees: United Way, Red Cross won't help

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by Larry Seward / KHOU 11 News

khou.com

Posted on September 1, 2012 at 7:01 PM

Updated Saturday, Sep 1 at 9:27 PM

HOUSTON – A family of Hurricane Isaac evacuees is disappointed with how much assistance they are getting.  They said neither the United Way nor Red Cross will help.

They have cell phones, a computer and cable TV in their hotel suite.  There is even a kitchen.  There is also plenty of room for the Nichols’ family to worry.

“I don’t want (the hotel) to put us out,” said Jeanene Nichols, an evacuee.  “We have nowhere to go. If we go back home, there’s no electricity.”

Jeanene, Lonnie, Isaiah, Ariana, Romecia and Sidney Nichols live in Hammond, Louisiana.  Dodging Hurricane Isaac and bad memories, they rushed to Houston Tuesday. 

“We were in the (Hurricane) Katrina storm (seven years ago),” Jeanene Nichols said.  “When (authorities) say leave, we leave.  We heed their warnings.”

They were told to go north.  However, the Nichols found hotels charging hundreds for rooms.  So, they took a chance and fled west.

“Our expectations were we’re coming and we’re hoping people would have compassion and love for the people that left Louisiana,” Jeanene Nichols said.

After running out of food and hotel fare, the Nichols learned on the phone that the United Way will not help the family.

“Houston was definitely not, absolutely not an area you were to evacuate to because it’s another coastal city,” a female United Way representative said on the phone.

“I called the Red Cross (too) and they said I’m sorry,” Nichols said.

It is hard on her husband, Lonnie.  He has sleep apnea.  To survive, he needs electricity to fuel his oxygen machine.  So, he led his family to Houston because it once embraced him during his most trying time.  It was seven years ago, right after Hurricane Katrina killed Lonnie Nichols’ 10-year-old son Trayvan Smith.

“(Authorities) never found his body, his mom or grandmother,” Nichols said.  “It’s difficult. I take it seriously, providing, making sure my kids are OK and that my wife is OK.  When I can’t do that no longer, it’s difficult.”

Spring Hill Suites management is letting the Nichols stay in their room while the family searches for a way to pay.  However, without money, without electricity at home, the Nichols can’t help but worry what’s next.

“We’re not looking for anything in excess,” Lonnie Nichols said.  “We just need help to be able to stay until we can return home and to be able to eat.”

 

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