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Houston Evacuees Getting More Support as Shelter Populations Lessen


Although most Louisiana evacuees have now found temporary housing elsewhere, there are still several hundred people with nowhere else to go except this shelter at Reliant Center, a convention and trade show center in Houston.

And for each person here, there is a story of survival.

Twin brothers Peter and Stanley Schmit lost everything they had and almost lost their lives to raging floodwaters in the New Orleans suburb of Meraux.

"The water overtook our car and it began to float and turned over,” Peter told us. ”So we got out the windows and when we did the storm currents took him one way and me another."

Stanley told his harrowing experience. "The flood waters pulled me over to another building and I held on to another building and then a boat passed and I hollered, 'Hey! Hey!' and they picked me up."

Peter continued his tale. "I was standing on a tree, climbing a tree underwater to get my head up, the water was up to here; standing on a tree, it was over my head if I would have tried to get on the ground, I could not touch the bottom, it was about 14 feet [4 meters]. A boat finally rescued me 10 hours later."

The twin brothers eventually made their way to this shelter in Houston, but they hope to return to Louisiana soon.

Houston city officials say only a few thousand people remain in shelters and that as many as 200,000 may now be living elsewhere in the area.

Ed Conley of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, says disaster victims who are sheltered here have tough decisions to make.

"I think every family is trying to make the best decision and they are making really -- think about it -- huge decisions. Where are they going to live, where are the kids going to go to school, are they going to stay here or do they want to go back home or go someplace else?"

In the meantime, FEMA workers and Red Cross volunteers, like Bridget Brown, try to keep evacuees as comfortable as possible in the shelter.

"There are areas that are specifically for women and specifically for men, specifically for the elderly and then there are some general population areas and you can see that people have set up the cots to make little living rooms for themselves," she said.

Shelter resident Glenn Lucien says he appreciates the help he and his family are getting here.

"It is comfortable and they feed you good,” said Glenn. They have services they provide for you and they are really helping you."

In the weeks ahead, officials believe the number of people in shelters will dwindle further as storm victims face the challenge of rebuilding their lives.

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