Volunteers from all over help with mega-shelter at Austin Convention Center

Red Cross and thousands of volunteers prepared the Austin Convention Center to become a mega-shelter for thousands of Harvey evacuees. But it wasn’t clear when they would arrive.

It was expected some evacuees could've been at the convention center as early as Wednesday night but some volunteers said there was a slight delay with the cots and setting up. But thousands of volunteers were on sight in Austin ready to help.

Sydney Morton was one of them from Washington, D.C. “It's been heartbreaking, it's really unbelievable to see what's happening in Houston.”

Morton said she had three canceled flights and a very long travel day Sunday to get to Austin but didn’t lose sight of why she's here in Texas, “Receiving people on the front lines, welcoming people and giving them a home on the interim on some of the hardest days of their lives.” 

Morton is part of a team of thousands of Red Cross volunteers assigned to help set up the mega-shelter expected to house up to 2400 Harvey evacuees.

The Austin Convention Center has served as home for many hurricane victims in the past including Ike and Katrina. It will turn into what Red Cross called villages, a city within a city providing much needed services for evacuees.

Bristel Minsker is with the American Red Cross, “The great thing about Austin is this community is so generous. Local businesses, local resources come out in droves to be able to help the shelter residents so we are going to work closely with those groups that have a service that they can provide and find ways to integrate that into the shelter so this is comfortable and convenient for the people who are staying here as possible.”
  
Red Cross didn’t have an exact timeframe on the arrival of the evacuees because so many people were still stuck, being rescued or they not able to get to buses get them out.

"People are being removed from roofs, they are escaping their houses on boat so this is really about a coordinated effort down in the gulf coast area to try and get them to a safe city outside of Houston,” Minsker said.

Minsker said the Red Cross had an outpouring of support from the community and processed more than 5,000 new volunteers in Austin alone since Harvey made landfall.

That didn’t even count those like Morton who went the distance all the way from D.C. to be here to help. “We'll just look forward to offering a little bit of comfort of hope, and hope and hospitality and of course the critical services that people need as soon as we are encountering them,” she said.

If you want to help Red Cross said the best way is with monetary donations and even with the outpouring of support with volunteers, they said they always need them. You can go to www.redcross.org for more information.

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