Texas Teacher Shares Firsthand Account of Red Cross Shelter

Amanda Boone is a High School teacher at Tuloso-Midway High School in Corpus Christi, and previously taught at Corpus Christi ISD. She was among the “boots on the ground” responding to community needs in the hours after Hurricane Harvey devastated her community. Amanda was gracious enough to tell us her story of The Red Cross shelter that opened up in her high school in late August.

Featured Image: A Corpus Christi Police Officer holds the American flag aloft in the winds of Hurricane Harvey.

“Back in 2016, our high school was very lucky in that we were chosen by the government to be the location of a FEMA evacuation site,” Amanda explains. “The government paid for two thirds of construction, our district paid for the other third, and an evacuation dome was built. When not in use for emergencies, it is an amazing facility that can be used by all the groups in our district for various purposes.”

Construction on the 20,000 square foot facility cost $5.1 million. Designated as a FEMA Safe Room, it’s able to withstand sustained winds of up to 220 miles per hour. During a hurricane, it can shelter as many as 470 people. During a tornado, over 1,800.

“After Hurricane Harvey hit,” Amanda said, “our high school dome (and we have one at another campus as well) was opened to evacuees and run by The Red Cross. One of our amazing staff members, who does so much for our community already, sent out a request for the things The Red Cross determined that they needed.”

The list which The Red Cross gave the high school staff member included pillows, blankets, jackets, food, and other needed donations.

“Being from Texas and the south in general (I’m originally from Louisiana, and the same thing would happen there), not only did our community respond, but as usual, they out-did themselves,” Amanda said. “In addition to the pillows and blankets, people brought clothes, warm meals, etcetera. However, they were told by The Red Cross that, first of all, they couldn’t accept all the clothes, only what was specifically asked for (such as jackets). Secondly, the homemade meals could not be served to the evacuees, but The Red Cross volunteers could eat them.”

This unwillingness or inability to accept donations made Amanda particularly upset.

“So you can’t serve it to the people who have nothing and are starving, but it’s good enough for your workers?” she asks.
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Unfortunately, Amanda reports that when The Red Cross left the shelter at Tuloso-Midway High School, they did not leave it in a clean or orderly condition. They left behind trash, donations, and even their branded blankets. They also moved the evacuees who were still in the shelter and had lost their homes, off to another shelter.

“When the Red Cross left our amazing facility,” Amanda says, “they weren’t there very long before they shipped the evacuees to another location. As if, just what these people want is to be moved around multiple times! They left everything that had been donated, their own blankets and supplies, and their trash. It was not very professional, in my opinion.”

Unfortunately, Amanda’s story is just one in a myriad of negative coverage, rumors, and scandals buffeting the national organization, which is chartered by the federal government. Despite the organization’s September 6 announcement that they’d raised $211 million in donations earmarked for Harvey recovery, those who got help often describe it as meager, while still many other claim they never saw The Red Cross at all.

“So you can’t serve [homemade food] to the people who have nothing and are starving, but it’s good enough for your workers?”
— Amanda Boone

“This isn’t the only story I have firsthand or secondhand knowledge of,” Amanda explains. “Like I said previously, I’m from Louisiana and have friends there that witnessed the atrocities at the Burton Coliseum. Refusal to distribute supplies, denying evacuees shelter, putting them back on a bus, and sending them to another location, shutting down another local shelter with no ties to the Red Cross and forcing those evacuees to another location … the list goes on and on.”

Meanwhile, The Red Cross is struggling to build a website where Texas residents can apply for $400 grants. Their first website crashed under too much traffic. This new website, while it is expected to handle demand, will not be ready until September 21, roughly a month after Harvey hit the Texas coast.

“If I had the money I would start a new organization,” Amanda says. “I will never give money to, volunteer for, or recommend The Red Cross. I seriously hope they hear these concerns and work to correct the problem. However, reputation and impression counts for a lot. I can guarantee that in the south, neither is good for the Red Cross.”

Video of Corpus Christi Police Officer holing aloft an American flag in the winds of Hurricane Harvey. Dated August 26, the day Harvey struck, the post reads, “Hang in there Corpus Christi! Some of our officers are heading out, please have them in your prayers.”
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