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Rita and Katrina Evacuees Show Frustration, Patience

By Bill Zeeble, KERA reporter

Dallas TX – Bill Zeeble, KERA 90.1 reporter: Trace Gonzalez, from Beaumont, is here with this wife, child and mother looking for help. He hoped to return in a day or two, but now hears a trip back might not be cleared for a WEEK OR TWO. He's already packed into a relative's cramped house with OTHER evacuees

Trace Gonzalez: Money's low, got to try to help the house, food, whatever, you know, cause we got a whole nother family in there with a family that was already there

Zeeble: The problem for Gonzalez and others in line seeking cash assistance, or say, gas money to get back to Houston, is that the American Red Cross deals in basics: shelter - food. Ken Harrison, of Dallas, is hoping to find his mother, Ola Zeno. She was evacuated from Beaumont on a military C-130 Cargo Plane. Re-routed from Lufkin because of Rita, he's heard she might be in California. He gives her name to the Red Cross, but is frustrated no one can find her name on a military or FEMA manifest.

Ken Harrison, seeking evacuated mom: It's so unorganized you call, get on the internet, nothing's there It's all for Katrina victims. Nothing for the Rita people

Zeeble: He's also told to try FEMA. But he already has. Anita Foster's with Red Cross trying to help ALL the people in line

Anita Foster, America Red Cross: As far as gas on how to get home, I don't have an answer for you Contact federal officials if you go back out to the drive way here, go to the backside and you'll see green signs for FEMA

Zeeble: So many from Reunion Arena start walking the quarter mile or so to FEMA's temporary operation in the Dallas Convention Center. Among them : Joanne Jones and her husband. They drove here from a retirement community in Sour Lake, Texas, near Beaumont, in advance of Rita. She's upset FEMA didn't seem to know about her elderly neighbors who needed help getting out.

Joanne Jones, from Sour Lake, Texas: There's 500-700 homes. Nobody knew we were there till I called. We had senior citizens that were stranded in that town cause the husband wouldn't leave his wife. He was 89, she 78. We all have medical problems. But no one knew they were there till I called yesterday. I was the point of contact for rescue

Zeeble: Now Jones is hoping for financial help to pay for a motel, until they can return. FEMA's Dallas director Justo Hernandez, says the agency can't provide money for gas. But for frustrated people seeking housing assistance or money to rebuild in a disaster area, this is the place.

Justo Hernandez, Dallas FEMA Director: Our job is to listen to their concerns, to settle them, take that frustration and turn it into something positive, so we can help them go through the process, cause the process of assistance is a little complicated.

Zeeble: At the end of the day, an excited Ken Harrison called KERA. A reporter suggested he contact FEMA in Washington. FEMA tracked his mother to a shelter in Nagadoches. So Harrison drove there to get her. For KERA 90.1 I'm Bill Zeeble