Sep 07, 2017

Austin’s Harvey ‘Megashelter’ Begins Plans to Close

Reporting Texas

The city’s shelter for Hurricane Harvey evacuees is winding down, with its population down to about 144, from a peak of 419.

Bryce Bencivengo, a city spokesperson, said Thursday that officials are trying to find alternative permanent housing for evacuees, and that the shelter in Southeast Austin will remain open until that goal is met.

“We are evaluating the numbers and the situations of the guests daily to see if we need to remain open,” he said.

In the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, state officials told the city of Austin to prepare to receive between 7,000 and 9,000 evacuees.

City leaders quickly worked to create what they called a “megashelter” that could house thousands of people displaced by the hurricane.

The city leased 96,000 square feet of space in the Met Center office park at $112,740 a month for up to eight months, and rushed to install showers and other facilities. The Red Cross has been operating the shelter. Cap Metro put up a bus stop and increased service to the shelter.

But late last week, shortly after the first wave of evacuees arrived, the state began busing many of them to shelters closer to where they live and work, in the Houston area and coastal areas battered by Harvey.

All told, only 419 people showed up at the Austin shelter, Bencivengo said. The number has continued to fall as evacuees move to other housing.

“The Met Center shelter will not close until the current residents have a safe place to go, whether that is here in Central Texas or in their home communities along the Gulf Coast,” Bencivengo said.