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Katrina Evacuees

We Survived Hurricane Katrina

People devastated by Hurricane Katrina are beginning to arrive in Las Vegas. KNPR's Ky Plaskon reports.

SOUND: Rolling Chairs

PLASKON: A red-cross volunteer is rolling tables and chairs into the campus of the Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada on North Las Vegas Boulevard.

SOUND: Background

PLASKON: FEMA was expected to send 300 evacuees here on Friday and another 200 on Saturday. Assistant County Manager DARRYL MARTIN says this just a clearing house for them.

MARTIN: The big thing is that we didn't want people to come in here and be in another shelter. The big focus was finding hotel rooms so that people could be in beds, so the big push began on Sunday finding hotels and so when Harrah's came in with 150 hotels it got the ball rolling on a number of other places including the emerald suites hotel that will.

PLASKON: Though confusion over flights and has delayed flying evacuees to Las Vegas the county says it's still prepared to fulfill the original request and have some 500 hotel rooms ready to house evacuees. Most of the hotels will be paid for by FEMA he says.

MARTIN: It is fancy accommodations, but you know what, these people have been through hell I think this is the least we can do for them, give them some personal time as opposed to a place with 11- or 12 thousand people which is how they have been living for 9 days, which is not to say we won't be using shelters.

PLASKON: The site at Catholic Charities is called an 'assessment center' - to evaluate who really needs help, what kind of help they need, if there are services and who can help. Martin says it's easy to keep track of those who are evacuated by FEMA.

MARTIN: They are being checked in through FEMA at the start and end. For people that aren't part of the evacuation, they lost everything, identification fortunately a lot of the people who are here have some identification, this is a tragic event, hopefully people will not use this as a scam, we have to be careful.

PLASKON: The county wouldn't allow media inside the assessment center, but even before FEMA evacuees had started to arrive, people from the gulf coast were pouring in to the center. One volunteer reported that there were hundreds of evacuees already inside early Thursday morning. By the end of the yesterday more than 350 people had been through the center. Among the steady stream of people walking and driving in was Mabel Mathews, a former 61-year old housekeeper in a children's hospital. She says she lost everything.

MATHEWS: I had just gotten a house and like I said, I don't know if there is anything left.

PLASKON: She hopes to find a job. There was also Lorie Mefford who had just driven in from Biloxi. She and her husband came here because they are former Las Vegas residents.

MEFFORD: It is the aftermath, it is all the disease, as a matter of fact, I have a rash right now that is why I am itching so bad. Can you see my rash? You have some peeling skin there. There is nothing down there. It is all demolished. I worked at the imperial palace down there.

PLASKON: She hopes to work in a casino here. William McHenry also walked up to the assessment center. He says he was a concrete finisher living near the French Quarter in New Orleans. He wants to get a work card.

MCHENRY: I head that you have to have cards. I want to go to work immediately. I am not here to freeload. You all have pop-eyes chicken, I would love to get some pop eyes chicken, I don't have any money to get it.

PLASKON: The Red Cross and county are asking for monetary donations only to help these people, they don't have room for any more clothes, dishes, food, furniture and games.

Ky Plaskon, News 88-9 KNPR