Alaska volunteer helps prepare mega-shelter for Harvey evacuees
As rescue efforts continue in Houston, Texas and surrounding areas, the American Red Cross is making more space for evacuees. Wednesday, volunteers and City of Austin employees worked to transform the lower level of the Austin Convention Center into another 'mega-shelter.'
"This is something that you only see in the largest of disaster relief operations," explained American Red Cross spokesperson Matt Teter.
Each of at least 2,500 squares taped on the floor will hold cots; temporary resting places for evacuees, many of whom escaped raging water with only their lives.
"A mega-shelter like this will require hundreds of people to operate it 24 hours a day, seven days a week," said Teter.
Volunteers like Alaskan Ken Everson are ready to help.
"At this moment, it's a little bit intimidating," said Everson, who's volunteered with the Red Cross for eight years, but has only worked in shelters housing around 150 people.
"When they come here they have really, a very bleak outlook, and what we can offer them is a place to stay. We can offer them food. We can offer them a friendly face," said Everson.
When asked why he volunteers, he replied, "You hear the word, 'Payback,' and I've had a good life, so this is part of the payback I guess."
Everson, like the others among the first wave of volunteers deployed, is already trained and has experience. Teter says the Red Cross is working to get more volunteers trained, so they can cycle in and relieve people like Everson after a few weeks.
"It's a great opportunity to do something for someone you don't know. It has it's good points. You meet a lot of people. It's kind of exciting in a way. It's at times very stressful, [a] lot of work involved, but much a good experience, especially when you get home you can... you really kind of feel that you've done something," said Everson.
Evacuees were originally expected to arrive at the mega-shelter in Austin Wednesday evening, but the City of Austin stated in a tweet during the late afternoon that the shelter would not be activated on Wednesday.