AUSTIN (KXAN) — Hundreds of coastal evacuees have found safety and shelter across Central Texas. In Austin on Saturday, evacuees staying at the Wilhelmina Delco Center were greeted by Gov. Greg Abbott, alongside local, state, and federal lawmakers who served them dinner and spoke with them about their circumstances in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.
Shirelle Franklin arrived at the shelter Friday afternoon after being evacuated from her home in Victoria. Now that more than a day has passed, the reality of her family’s situation is sinking in; the reality of the unknown.
“It’s been really stressful. It’s been a roller coaster. Sleepless nights, restlessness,” explained Franklin. “Trying to stay strong for my children and my whole family that’s here.”
Franklin says she struggled with the decision to drive to Austin with her mother and four children — she didn’t want to leave her home because her family has been through tragedy like this before.
“We lost everything in ’98,” she explained. Her family was living in Cuero, Texas that year when devastating flooding destroyed homes. “Just picture animals floating by, on top of houses, there’s nothing there. So, you have to like build and start from square one.”
Franklin fears she’ll have to do that all over again in the wake of Harvey. She doesn’t know what will come of her home — her life — while she’s in Austin.
“We don’t know what we’re going to walk into. We don’t know at all. We don’t know what’s going to happen, what’s going to be there, if anything’s going to be left. It’s scary. Very scary,” Franklin said.
Although more overwhelmed and stressed with the start of a new hour, Franklin says Gov. Abbott’s visit Saturday to the shelter gave her comfort. She shared with him the concerns she has for her father who stayed behind in the storm.
“Knowing my dad hasn’t answered the phone, they don’t have any electricity, no water. I don’t know what kind of supplies he had,” said Franklin.
Abbott said, “I comforted her by letting her know how important it was that she was able to evacuate.”
The governor says families like Franklin’s are a priority.
“What these people left behind was sheer tragedy. Some of them had their homes mowed down. Some of them will not have a place to return to,” said Gov. Abbott. “Our job now is to help these people rebuild their lives and get them back home as quickly as possible. They need this time and this food and this place right here. It’s our job to make sure that they’re going to be taken care of. We will take care of our fellow Texans.”
The Franklins say donations they’ve relied on since they arrived at the Delco Center have made all the difference.
“Believe it or not, it matters to a lot of us, and it all counts,” said Franklin, crying. “From a little bottle of water to a bag of chips, it matters,” her mother added.
Despite all the family has been through, the Franklins say they are counting their blessings and keeping their faith — hopeful for all those enduring the storm along the coast.
“I’m not only concerned about myself and my father. I’m also concerned about the well-being of the ones who know that they don’t have homes. I thank God that we have the people, that we need to stick together, and help each other out,” she said. “We don’t think negative. Always stay positive and it’ll work out.”
At last report Saturday night, the Delco Center shelter is the only operational shelter facility in the city, with 181 heads in bed and 33 animals. LBJ High School has not yet been forced into operation.