HOUSTON - The city is moving people out of the George R. Brown Convention Center and into other shelters. The downtown center has been used as a shelter for Hurricane Harvey victims and is expected to close soon. Officials said it will stay open through at least the weekend to facilitate the moves.
The Red Cross and the City of Houston have selected an HCC warehouse on Fannin for the transition.
The Red Cross gave KHOU 11 News reporter Brett Buffington an exclusive first look at the new shelter on Saturday.
Staff members have turned the space into a temporary shelter. Workers pulled it off in just 24 hours. There are beds for 800 people, space for pets, and showers set up in trailers outside.
The transfer started Saturday evening, into Sunday morning.
Earlier on Saturday a spokesperson for the Red Cross said, "We are working to get the space completely ready to ensure the comfort and safety of the residents being transitioned from George R. Brown."
Flood evacuees will not be moving to an old mall, after all. KHOU 11 News was first to confirm Northwest Mall was off the table.
“It’s just not an easy job,” said Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner.
People who can’t get leases on their own moved to an apartment complex called Residences at Emancipation. Saturday, people who qualify for leases will start moving, too.
Basically, they’re getting 60 days of free rent from FEMA. But it’s not a voucher, so they can’t just move anywhere they want; only to FEMA-approved spots.
The Red Cross distributed flyers Thursday announcing that GRB evacuees were bound for the old Northwest Mall.
KHOU 11 even saw portable toilets set up outside. That plan was dead 24 hours later and the mayor says the GRB will not necessarily close on Saturday.
“We’re not going to put people out on the streets,” Turner said. “That’s not going to happen.”
Turner says the city is still working with the Red Cross and others to identify housing options, including apartments. Some $9 million is allocated for those remaining at the GRB alone.
Nigeria native Zina Nwamadi is one of the approximately 300 people who were homeless before the flood.
“Just a lot of hustle and bustle, moving around,” Nwamadi said about her life on the streets. She’d like to think the GRB could be bridge from being homeless to a more permanent place to live.
“So I can settle down and take care of myself,” Nwamadi said.
Despite the city’s willingness to spare no expense, Turner says it’s important to note not everyone will be happy.
“Just because we provide you with housing doesn’t mean people are going to accept the housing,” Turner said.
Right now, non-profit Baker Ripley continues to run a shelter at NRG Center as well.
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