At 10 p.m. Tuesday, Harris County opened NRG Center as the next large shelter for those fleeing Harvey's devastating floods.
Harris County Judge Ed Emmett said it will be open to 10,000 people. The local nonprofit Baker-Ripley (formerly Neighborhood Centers, Inc.) will run the shelter with help from FEMA, and it will include a pharmacy, an area for pets overseen by BARC, and a children's center.
While preliminary talks about opening NRG began Tuesday morning, Emmett said he officially asked Baker-Ripley CEO Angela Blanchard if she could spearhead the NRG shelter effort at 4:30 p.m. Former mayor Bill White and former county judge Robert Eckels also helped lead the charge — the two of them had been instrumental in 2005, when thousands of people fled New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina, seeking refuge at the Astrodome.
In less than six hours, NRG was ready to take in the recently homeless survivors.
"I walked in, and I was just completely blown away. It is remarkable," Emmett said around 9 p.m. of the swift and expansive efforts to get NRG up and running. "They've got a couple hundred volunteers in place. They've got security in place. They have hand-painted signs welcoming their neighbors. We had teenagers who came forward and said they want to set up a children's play area. We've got a pet area for people if they want to bring their pets — we've all learned there are folks who won't go unless you're willing to take their pets. Volunteers are coming in, and they are ready to receive our neighbors right now. It's truly amazing."
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Emmett said NRG is one of roughly three dozen shelters across the region, all of which are quickly filling up. After more than 10,000 people packed into the George R. Brown Convention Center, Mayor Sylvester Turner announced Tuesday evening that the city was opening up the Toyota Center to relieve the crowding at GRB. There had been such an outpouring of support and donations that the city had to open up BBVA Compass Stadium as a place to drop off supplies — clothing, diapers, children's toys. Mountains of supplies nearly up to the ceiling had poured into the convention center thanks to the fact that thousands of people wanted to help.
At NRG Center, it was open to outside volunteers starting at 6 a.m. today (Wednesday). People are encouraged to come to NRG through the Red 10 parking entrance, located near McNee and Kirby.
Emmett said that those in the shelter weren't being seen as evacuees, but simply our neighbors.
He continued, "What's the purpose of this shelter? Sometimes we forget. In this case, it's to provide a safe place not only for those who have been displaced from their homes, but they've had a miserable few days. It's a place of security, and more than that, it's a place where these people can begin to plan to return to normalcy."