As Tropical Storm Harvey continues to deluge the Texas Gulf Coast in history-making flooding, the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston is one of some 70 locations that have been set up in the county to serve as shelters for displaced residents.
“The George R. Brown has turned into an emergency shelter for the people from Hurricane Harvey and now Tropical Storm Harvey,” saidHolly Clapham, chief marketing officer for Houston First Corporation. “The Red Cross is running the human scale operation and we’re the facility part of it. We have updated our grbhouston.com website and will continue to update information from Red Cross and how people can help.”
Clapham said that people have been arriving at the venue in “every which way.”
“There are those that live in this area that are able to walk here,” she said. “At the very beginning, we received an a large number of our homeless population. There are police officers present checking for weapons as a precaution. Obviously, we have a mass of people who might be arriving. I want to emphasize that we are taking everyone. Mayor (Sylvester) Turner has stated that this is a welcoming city. We take all. There is no checking ID’s or driver’s license or any type of enforcement of political views.”
Clapham said that she is not aware at this point of events being impacted at the convention center. She added that she is not also aware of any displacements of people from previous events at the venue who flew in to the city but were not able to get out.
The venue’s staff has already begun working round-the-clock shifts and will do so as long as displaced residents are at the facility.
“The operations team was present the first night,” Clapham said. “No one expected it to be this bad, but they were already on hand and still on hand. This is not over.”
Indeed, according to short-term forecasts, the record-setting flooding is not even to the halfway point as the tropical storm stalled out once reaching land Friday night.
“It is hard to predict how long we will have people,” Clapham said. “The Red Cross and the Mayor make that decision. We are operating in partnership with the Red Cross on behalf of our boss Mayor Turner.”
Clapham is also unable to speculate on how many people the convention center will house at its largest number.
“At the beginning there were 350 or so people,” she said. “We’re not planning on any number because we just don’t know. Again, it’s the Red Cross that is able to communicate how much they are able to plan for. The donations are pouring in. The more donations, the more supplies, the more people you can safely accept.”
Clapham said that the greatest need right now is for diapers and formula, among other essentials.
“Long-term the Red Cross has a dedicated donations line for people devastated by, I guess, the largest natural disaster in American history,” she said.
For information on the George R. Brown Convention Center as an emergency center for Hurricane Harvey, items needed, and how to donate to the Red Cross, click here.