Though homeless, evacuees faced with utility bills, uncertainty

Published 4:36 pm Wednesday, October 4, 2017

By Colleen Harrison


The water may be gone, but the chaos and uncertainty Tropical Storm Harvey left in its wake is anything but.

One shelter remains for those displaced by Harvey, a series of tents — known informally as tent city — set up in the parking lot of Robert A. Bowers Civic Center in Port Arthur.

While some of Tent City’s residents have started to make plans for life after Harvey, others are at a loss for what to do next. Organizations like FEMA and the American Red Cross are stationed inside of the temporary shelter, and they have representatives trying to help people get back into their homes or find new places to live.

But what happens to the people who don’t have anywhere else to go?

Anthony Eliott has been staying in the shelter for about two weeks. He lived in the El Vista area before Harvey, and said the process to figure out what to do with his home has been slow.

Eliott said he’s still waiting to hear from FEMA about his relief application, but that the Red Cross has done an excellent job of helping him figure out what to do with damaged sheet rock and mold remediation at his house.

He said his only complaint with Tent City itself is that the tents get very cold at night. Eliott said he complained to one of the shelter organizers, mostly because he was concerned for some of the infants staying in the tents.

As far as getting back home, Eliott thinks it’ll be a while, if his house can be saved in the first place. He said he wishes utility companies and insurance companies would ease up on people who have to stay in the shelter, as he said he’s still being charged even though he can’t stay at his house.

“We could definitely use some relief,” he said. “I have to rebuild; I have to get my family back home.”

Herman Jones has had some struggles in life, both before and after he said he was kicked out of Tent City.

Jones, who said he’s a veteran, had been staying with his sister in Port Arthur before Harvey hit. He said he has faced some financial troubles over the years, and not being able to eat right or “stay out of trouble” has led to some health issues.

Jones said he can get confused easily at times, and said he woke up in the middle of the night at the shelter once, not realizing where he was at first. All he knew was that he had to go to the bathroom and couldn’t make it to the shelter bathrooms in time, so he found a corner away from others to relieve himself. Jones said he was caught by someone working at the shelter, and was then asked to leave.

Jones’ wristband was taken away, so he is not able to be admitted back into the shelter, but that doesn’t stop him from making repeated visits to the shelter checkpoint to talk his way back in.

“I just made a mistake,” he said.

Jones said he’s embarrassed at where he has ended up, and said he is going to try to get in touch with the Red Cross to see if there’s somewhere else he can go. He said he might be able to stay with his sister again, but doesn’t want to tell her he got kicked out of Tent City.

“I’m a military man, I know how to survive,” he said. “I just don’t wanna have to do it alone.”

Jones said he has been through a lot in life, but that Harvey has been one of the events he has struggled with the most.

“I don’t like Harvey” he said. “He’s gone. Let him rest; don’t bring him up no more.”

Rhoda Tutt has been at the shelter for about four days. She was living in the Lakeside area of Port Arthur before Harvey hit. In the storm she said she was part of a group rescued and flown by an Army chopper to a Dallas shelter. Tutt said she worked in Dallas to save up for a bus ticket back to Port Arthur.

Tutt said the Dallas shelter she stayed at was really nice, and that Tent City in Port Arthur has been a decent place to stay, as well.

“They got everything we need in there,” she said. “There’s really nothing to complain about.”

People have been getting along well for the most part in the camp, Tutt said. While there are still a lot of people in the tents, she’s glad she hasn’t seen much trouble inside.

Tutt said FEMA has been helpful in getting her money for her damaged house and car, and will likely help her to get a trailer to stay in while she figures out what’s next.

Despite what she has lost, Tutt said she’s looking forward to getting her life back, no matter what changes that process comes with.

“It’s gonna take a little time for everything to get back to normal, but we’ll get there,” she said.