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No Way Out: Many Poor Stuck in Houston

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://www.newsday.com/news/nationworld/nation/ats-ap_us14sep22,0,1136324.story?coll=ny-leadnationalnews-headlines No Way Out: Many Poor Stuck in Houston By
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 22, 2005
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      http://www.newsday.com/news/nationworld/nation/ats-ap_us14sep22,0,1136324.story?coll=ny-leadnationalnews-headlines

      No Way Out: Many Poor Stuck in Houston

      By DEBORAH HASTINGS
      AP National Writer

      September 22, 2005, 7:54 PM EDT

      HOUSTON -- Wilma Skinner would like to scream at the
      officials of this city. If only someone would pick up
      their phone.

      "I done called for a shelter, I done called for help.
      There ain't none. No one answers," she said, standing
      in blistering heat outside a check-cashing store that
      had just run out of its main commodity. "Everyone just
      says, 'Get out, get out.' I've got no way of getting
      out. And now I've got no money."

      With Hurricane Rita breathing down Houston's neck,
      those with cars were stuck in gridlock trying to get
      out. Those like Skinner -- poor, and with a
      broken-down car -- were simply stuck, and fuming at
      being abandoned, they say.

      "All the banks are closed and I just got off work,"
      said Thomas Visor, holding his sweaty paycheck as he,
      too, tried to get inside the store, where more than
      100 people, all of them black or Hispanic, fretted in
      line. "This is crazy. How are you supposed to evacuate
      a hurricane if you don't have money? Answer me that?"

      Some of those who did have money, and did try to get
      out, didn't get very far.

      Judie Anderson of La Porte, Texas, covered just 45
      miles in 12 hours. She had been on the road since 10
      p.m. Wednesday, headed toward Oklahoma, which by
      Thursday was still very far away.

      "This is the worst planning I've ever seen," she said.
      "They say, 'We've learned a lot from Hurricane
      Katrina.' Well, you couldn't prove it by me."

      On Bellaire Boulevard in southwest Houston, a weeping
      woman and her young daughter stood on the sidewalk,
      surrounded by plastic bags full of clothes and
      blankets. "I'd like to go, but nobody come get me,"
      the woman said in broken English. When asked her name,
      she looked frightened. "No se, no se," she said:
      Spanish for "I don't know."

      Her daughter, who appeared to be about 9, whispered in
      English, "We're from Mexico."

      For the poor and the disenfranchised, the mighty
      evacuation orders that preceded Rita were something
      they could only ignore.

      Eddie McKinney, 64, who had no home, no teeth and a
      torn shirt, stood outside the EZ Pawn shop, drinking a
      beer under a sign that said, "No Loitering."

      "We got no other choice but to stay here. We're
      homeless and we're broke," he said. "I thought about
      going to Dallas, but now it's too late. I got no way
      to get there."

      Where will he stay?

      "A nice white man gave me a motel room for three days.
      Just walked up and said, 'Here.' So my buddy and me
      will stick it out," he said, pointing to another
      homeless man. "We got a half-gallon of whiskey and a
      room."

      In Deer Park, a working-class suburb of refineries
      south of Houston, Stacy and Troy Curtis, waited for
      help outside the police station. Less than three weeks
      ago, the couple left New Orleans after it was ravaged
      by Hurricane Katrina.

      With no vehicle, and little money, they tried to get
      their lives together while staying at a hotel in Deer
      Park. Stacy Curtis, a nursing assistant in New
      Orleans, had a job interview scheduled for Thursday.

      But most businesses had shut down because the
      neighborhood will likely flood if the hurricane hits
      Galveston Bay. The streets were empty Thursday
      afternoon.

      "We're stuck here," Stacy Curtis said. "Got no other
      place to go."

      An emergency official eventually sent a van to take
      the couple to a shelter at a recreation center.

      Monica Holmes, who has debilitating lupus, sat in her
      car at a Houston gas station that had no gas. "We
      can't go nowhere," she said, tapping a fingernail
      against the dashboard fuel gauge. "Look here," she
      said. "I'm right on E."

      Her husband, a security guard, had a paycheck, but no
      way to cash it.

      "We were going to try to go to Nacogdoches" in east
      Texas, not far from the Louisiana border, she said.
      "But even if we could get on the road, we're not going
      to get out. These people that left yesterday, they're
      still on the beltway. They haven't even got out of
      Houston."

      So she and her husband will hunker down in their
      Missouri City home, just to the south. "We'll be
      fine," she said. "You can't be scared of what God can
      do. I'm covered."

      As always, there were those who chose to stay, no
      matter how dire the warnings.

      John Benson, a 47-year-old surfer and lifelong
      Galveston resident, said he thinks his town "is going
      to take on a lot of water. But as far as the winds, I
      think here on the island, it will be a little bit less
      than they anticipated."

      Mandatory evacuation orders were issued Wednesday for
      the area.

      Benson said he planned to use his surfboard as
      transportation after the hurricane. "The main thing is
      you have a contingency plan," he said, and thumped his
      board. "You got buoyancy."

      Skinner, accompanied by her 6-year-old grandson,
      Dageneral Bellard, would settle for a bus.

      "They got them for the outlying areas, for the Gulf
      and Galveston, but they ain't made no preparations for
      us in the city, for the poor people here. There ain't
      no (evacuation) buses here. I got nowhere to go."

      * __

      EDITOR'S NOTE -- Associated Press writers Pam Easton
      in Galveston and Tim Whitmire in Deer Park contributed
      to this report.
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