Have we learned from Hurricane Katrina when it comes to sheltering the dispossessed after a natural disaster? Currently 10,000 people are crammed into Houston’s George R. Brown Convention Center in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. The original plan was to take 5000.
Media have been denied entrance into the main housing zone, while new arrivals continue to flow at all hours directed now to cots in the open halls where convention goers would typically buy souvenirs.
An interview by Houston’s KHOU 11 just earlier found a fifteen-year-old boy named John walking these halls and asked him about the conditions inside. He replied they’re atrocious.
“It’s kinda dirty, there’s a lot of people and they’re kinda sick and throwing up on the floor and spitting. Just thousands of people all crowded.”
It was better sleeping in the hall.
Apparently drug use is prevalent, the mentally-ill mingle with the general population and the formerly derelict have merely taken shelter with the displaced: no questions asked on entry.
The filth must be nauseating. I recall reports of conditions in the New Orleans Superdome and convention centre during Katrina where rapes and child molestation occurred, people died, racial tensions rose and a National Guardsman was shot. I’ll never forget Fox News’ Geraldo Rivera’s shrill cry on air for immediate help. Only then did the wheels turn.
The fear is the denial of media entry represents the cover up of another developing hell. Yet, as opposed to Katrina where the New Orleans Police Department left its posts, Houston’s Police remain. Could that make the difference?
There is no dismissing the risk that unplanned population concentration poses: the mixing of criminals with the innocent and a lack of trained care personnel throughout. The Brown Convention Center is heavily staffed by non-Red Cross accredited volunteers and this is a reality Texan Governor Greg Abbott must publicly address. What is going on inside?
Houston’s victims need expert caring, nursing, security, psychology, healthcare and safe rooming now. If private enterprise can build entire military metropolises in the deserts of Afghanistan and Iraq replete with sanitation and commissaries on the federal government’s dime, surely the same should be underway now where nature has left Texas dry.
Houston’s first curfew began minutes ago. Finally overflow shelter facilities have opened at the city’s NRG and Toyota centres too. But what’s happening behind closed doors?
© 2017 Adam Parker. You’ve just read a Parkerpinion.
Main picture: New Orleans two months before Katrina. Author’s photo.