Last Red Cross Shelter in Houston to Close With 300 Hurricane Ike Victims Still Inside

Some of the nearly 300 Hurricane Ike victims still living in the city's last Red Cross shelter are worried about where they will live after it closes this week.

Scheduled to cease operations Sunday, the shelter had housed more than 1,000 people during the height of the storm. Officials said it was one of 24 the Red Cross opened in the Greater Houston area.

Ike swept away Sheila Willis' car and her Crystal Beach home, leaving her stranded. Before Ike blasted ashore near Galveston on Sept. 13, flattening buildings and killing at least 37 people in Texas, a friend gave Willis a ride to evacuate. She said she stayed at a shelter in the George R. Brown Convention Center, where someone stole her purse. Her ID, other important papers and most of her money were inside.

"I don't know what's wrong with this government," said Willis, tears filling her eyes. "Everyone's giving us the runaround. They lied to us, and it's ridiculous lies," the Houston Chronicle reported in its online edition Thursday.

Willis said she has no idea what she will do when the shelter closes but wants to go stay with a friend in Oklahoma City, where she grew up.

Efforts are underway to provide transitional housing for Ike victims once the shelter closes.

"Our goal obviously is for everyone to have the resources that will provide some type of housing for them. There also are some people here who are homeless and were homeless before the storm, and we've had different homeless agencies here to help them," Denise Bishop, a spokeswoman for the Houston Red Cross chapter, said.

On Oct. 26, the Red Cross is scheduled to close its last shelter in Galveston but no date has been set for the Red Cross' final shelter in Baytown.

The housing department is working with the Red Cross, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other agencies, to find shelter for people on an interim basis, said Cindy Gabriel, spokeswoman for Houston's Ike recovery effort.

Meanwhile, Ike victims whose homes remain uninhabitable can stay in hotels or motels paid for by the federal government until the first of November.

FEMA announced the extension Friday.

Those whose homes have been deemed uninhabitable by FEMA inspectors or whose inspections have not been done might qualify for the program. The agency says a longer-term rental housing program will follow the hotel plan.

Ike is the most expensive in Texas history, with an estimated pricetag of $11.4 billion — so far.