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Hurricane Katrina evacuees transferred to Reunion Arena

By Bill Zeeble, KERA 90.1 reporter

Hurricane Katrina evacuees transferred to Reunion Arena

Dallas, TX –

Bill Zeeble, KERA 90.1 reporter: Dallas is following the Superdome and Astrodome model, sheltering Katrina victims here in functional, available Reunion Arena. Dallas Mayor Laura Miller:

Dallas Mayor Laura Miller: Reunion Arena will now be the only shelter open. Anyone coming here form out of town looking for a place to stay, anyone in hotels now who realize they can't afford hotels any longer and don't know where to go, the place to go is Reunion, in downtown Dallas.

Zeeble: Miller could've been describing the Steptore family, from New Orleans. Standing outside the Grauwyler Recreation Center in Dallas yesterday, Showandra Steptore says she, her husband, 2-year-old daughter and puppy all left the Crescent City Saturday night.

Showandra Steptore, Hurricane Katrina refugee: We thought we'd be here for two days only. We packed two days' worth of clothes. Now it's three to four days, and it could last longer.

Zeeble: After they ran out of hotel money, they ended up in Dallas. Left behind in New Orleans was Steptore's aunt, who refused a ride because she didn't want to leave her home. Steptore now has no idea if her aunt's OK. Phone contact's sporadic or nonexistent. Mike Mills and girlfriend Shauntice Jenkins, who live in Dallas, showed up at the shelter seeking information about family members, all of whom live in New Orleans.

Mike Mills, Dallas resident: My mom's still in New Orleans. I haven't heard from her. That's where we all from.

Zeeble: Suddenly, Mill's cell phone buzzes.

Mills: Were you at, Ma?

Shauntice Jenkins, Dallas resident: That's his mother. He's been trying to contact her for the past three days. Didn't know if she was dead or alive. And she just called him.

Mills: Ma, go to the Astrodome. I will be there. Ma, get on the bus! Let them take you to Houston. I'll come pick you up and I'll bring you to Dallas!

Zeeble: Inside Reunion Arena, others from New Orleans, including James Milsaps and his wife Darlene are checking into the shelter.

James Milsaps, Hurricane Katrina refugee: We're kind of like the homeless, like most people in New Orleans now. This'll be a better facility because all the FEMA stuff is over here, so we need to be here.

Zeeble: Again, Mayor Miller:

Miller: Many have little identification with them, no income stream, jobs that are gone or in limbo indefinitely, no savings, and most devastatingly, no home and no belongings. What I heard from many of these people is that what they would really like to have is work.

Zeeble: Dallas officials have coordinated with the Red Cross, the County, DART, Parkland Hospital, the school system, and the Workforce Commission, to help the hundreds of people now in Reunion Arena. City leaders say the help will last as long as it's needed. For KERA 90.1, I'm Bill Zeeble.

Catherine Cuellar and Sujata Dand contributed to this piece.

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Contact Bill Zeeble about this story