Divided Ike relief funds may go toward shelters

By Holley Nees - bio | email

CROCKETT, TX (KTRE) -After four public hearings to split up Hurricane Ike funds, the money storm has started to calm.

"We can stand all day long and say we didn't get enough or they didn't get enough, but the fact is we have to deal with the money we're given," said Angelina County Judge Wes Suiter.

One way to deal with it is to start putting money towards a shelter.

"We know that we need a place to divert long term evacuees, so we can get our schools and churches back open," Suiter said.

However, some churches are not so sure about this new building.

"I don't want the churches to be left out of the opportunity to shelter, just because we consider it a privilege to be able to do that," said Pastor Jeff Robinson of Southside Baptist Church.

He said it may cost his church, but he knows that is what they are called to do.

"We do because we are supposed to," said Robinson.

Congregations in Angelina and Nacogdoches Counties, like Southside Baptist sheltered hundreds of Ike evacuees.

"We know they bear a big burden with the sheltering," said Houston County Judge Lonnie Hunt.

It is a burden some say they do not mind shouldering.

"If we got the funding that we needed, I don't see any problem with not having a permanent shelter for people," said Hope Center Director Linda Pendland.

Even though some church buildings are not equipped to act as shelters, they will continue to welcome evacuees with open arms.

"We feel like it's part of our ministry,"  said one church shelter manager.

Churches have some time before they have to worry about fading opportunities.

"And, will five million dollars do it?  You know, it'll have to do the best we can now," said Judge Suiter.

Suiter is hopeful another round of federal funding and more shelter talk is around the corner.

The proposed shelters would be in Nacogdoches and Angelina Counties. The city of Lufkin's plans feature a 150,000 square foot building that would cost around 14 million dollars to build. Nothing has been finalized because more discussion is expected.