Ascension Parish officials take over Lamar Dixon Shelter, will remain open through Saturday

Ascension Parish officials take over Lamar Dixon Shelter, will remain open through Saturday
Source: WAFB
Source: WAFB
Source: WAFB
Source: WAFB

GONZALES, LA (WAFB) - The Red Cross handed over control of the Lamar Dixon shelter to Ascension Parish officials, giving people a few more days to move out. However, the next step is proving difficult for many.

Flood survivor Amber Wall had a blunt description of the weeks after the flooding.

"It's hell," Wall said.

Wall and her husband stayed at the Red Cross shelter at the Lamar Dixon Expo Center for a month. She said the red tape that surrounds the recovery process made moving forward slow.

"We had to go to HUD. We had to go to FEMA," Wall said. "If you were denied by FEMA, you had to go to this place and that's why we've been in here so long."

On Monday, Wall said the VA was able to find them a hotel room in Lake Charles near family. Wall and her husband were among a few dozen families who were moved out of the Lamar Dixon shelter that day.

Red Cross has been working to place those remaining in shelters in a more permanent situation. The Red Cross originally stated Lamar Dixon would resume normal operations on Tuesday, implying the shelter would close by Monday afternoon.

"Emergency shelters typically aren't intended to stay open for long periods of time—that's why organizations involved in relief efforts strive to help people find more suitable accommodations if their homes are left unlivable after a disaster. Many shelters have been open for almost a month, and the owners of some shelter facilities are ready to get back to normal business," said Red Cross spokeswoman Vicki Eichstaedt.

However, Ascension Parish officials announced Monday afternoon they would take control of the shelter, giving people a few more days to move out.

According to director Rick Webre, the parish's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness plan to keep the shelter open through at least September 17.

"We do want to scale down, but what we want to focus on are the Ascension Parish residents to make sure they get to where they want to," Webre said.

Meanwhile, Red Cross caseworkers will continue to help families take the next step. A spokesperson said that may involve connecting them with FEMA or other groups for temporary housing or even hotel stays.

"They can go home if they're able to go home. They can stay with friends and relatives if that's what they choose to do. We're working with FEMA to find more semi-permanent housing for them. So, there's lots of options and it's really a case by case basis," said spokesperson Patricia Kemp.

Still, frustrations are running high for many who have called the place home for weeks, some not liking the options before them.

"I'm hurting. I got nowhere to go. I got to go back home and patch up for my family," said survivor Gwendolyn Landry as she prepared to leave the shelter and return to her damaged home.

However, not everyone is dreading what lies ahead. Survivor Lance Farias said he was renting his home that was flooded and now has nowhere else to go. Red Cross was able to get him a train ticket to Washington State to stay with his daughter, a trip he said he has sorely wanted to take but never could afford.

"There's four grandchildren I haven't met," said Farias.

Kemp called Farias' story a success that she hopes will be repeated.

The Red Cross is still set to close the River Center shelter in Baton Rouge on Thursday as scheduled. No word yet if another entity will step in there as well.

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