- The Washington Times - Friday, September 2, 2005

Hundreds of thousands of people from regions devastated by Hurricane Katrina have resettled in shelters, hotels, churches and homes across the country for potentially long-term stays.

In Dry Creek, La., 220 miles from waterlogged New Orleans, about 400 evacuees found refuge yesterday at Dry Creek Baptist Camp. “We’re packed out right now,” said James Blankenship, a camp volunteer.

“We started out with a good number of folks, and then some of the hotels nearby couldn’t support the people coming in. … There is a lot of overflow,” Mr. Blankenship said.

On the Internet, meanwhile, hundreds of families as far away as Oregon and New Hampshire were offering room and board to those escaping the storm-struck region.

About 78,000 refugees were in shelters throughout the South yesterday, the Red Cross reported. About 40,000 of those evacuated from the hard-hit Gulf Coast were being housed in shelters elsewhere in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, while about 25,000 were in Houston, 10,000 in Memphis, Tenn., and others in Georgia.

In Texas — where storm survivors from New Orleans are being housed in the Houston Astrodome — Gov. Rick Perry’s office said yesterday his state has agreed to take in an additional 50,000 refugees and plans to house 25,000 each in San Antonio and Dallas.

In Tyler, Texas, scores of refugees got free meals, clothing and shelter at the First Christian Church. The Red Cross-run shelter at the church began receiving refugees Tuesday and, within hours was filled to its capacity of 300.

“We’ve been asked to provide long-term shelter for 21 days,” said Susan Campbell of the Smith County Red Cross.

Those fleeing the destruction along the Gulf Coast filled hotels in neighboring states.

“All the hotels in central Arkansas — including Little Rock and Conway — are pretty much filled up,” said Christina Hinn, a sales assistant at the Holiday Inn Presidential in downtown Little Rock, Ark.

“You can bet any small town that has a hotel has at least one guest who is an evacuee,” said a manager at the hotel, who declined to give her name.

Hattiesburg, Miss., which reportedly has some vacant motel rooms but few amenities, says it is dealing with about 1,500 refugees, who need almost everything.

During a nine-hour drive Sunday from Gulfport, Miss., Dr. Reagan Hall said his family of six stopped at 15 different hotels before finding two rooms at the Marriott Courtyard in Tallahassee, Fla.

But the Mississippi dentist’s family will have to leave the hotel today — their rooms had already been reserved for the weekend by football fans arriving for Monday’s game between Florida State University and the University of Miami.

Elsewhere, evacuees are staying with friends and relatives. Dave Edgeworth of Kenner, La., said when he left home, he first stayed with friends in Jackson, Miss., for a few days and now is staying with a daughter and son-in-law in Memphis, Tenn.

In Chattanooga, Tenn., volunteers at the Hixson United Methodist Church were waiting to offer shelter to hurricane victims. The church yesterday received 35 calls from local residents offering to let storm refugees stay in their homes.

“They are welcoming strangers. That’s unusual,” said Julie Huisman, a Red Cross nurse.

The Chattanooga Housing Authority said it would provide free accommodations in 80 public housing units for up to 90 days for the most desperate refugees. That offer came after some area hotels reported having as many as three families of refugees cramped in one room, said an agency spokesman.

On Web sites such as craigslist.org, hundreds of people were offering to take in strangers fleeing Katrina’s devastation.

“We’ve got all this room. Why not host a family, a couple, someone who needs help?” asked Linda Donewald, who is offering her Mesa, Ariz., home to refugees along with space for a pet cat or dog. “Even if it’s 110 degrees, I’m sitting here on dry land. And these people have nothing.”

Just 20 minutes after Brenda Moreshead posted an online message offering three bedrooms and a finished basement in her suburban Atlanta home to storm victims, she got a phone call from two sisters from New Orleans who were at a motel in Arkansas.

“I’ve been very blessed in my life,” Mrs. Moreshead said. “What goes around comes around.”

Officials say it may be months before New Orleans residents can return to the flood-stricken city, and many evacuees were seeking to get jobs and enroll their children in school in the communities where they are currently sheltered. Texas officials say they expect to enroll 10,000 children of evacuees in its school systems.

Amy Doolittle and Hugh Aynesworth contributed to this report, which is based in part on wire service reports.

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