Medical support, shelter services help evacuees in Austin move forward

Valerie Draper and Albert Salazar had to evacuate their home in Bloomington, TX during Harvey. Now they are living at the evacuee shelter in Austin. ( KXAN Photo/ Alyssa Goard).
Valerie Draper and Albert Salazar had to evacuate their home in Bloomington, TX during Harvey. Now they are living at the evacuee shelter in Austin. ( KXAN Photo/ Alyssa Goard).

AUSTIN (KXAN) — As hundreds of evacuees settle into life at the new shelter at 7000 Metropolis Drive, they’ll need the support of plenty of medical and community resources to endure what could be months of waiting. The shelter, which opened its doors Thursday, is now equipped with a team of medical volunteers offering services for evacuees.

A city of Austin spokesperson explained Sunday that the shelter was hosting between 250 to 350 evacuees, but that number was in flux because many are coming and going. At an emergency city council meeting last week, city staff members mentioned that evacuees during Katrina stayed in Austin for up to five to six months.

While outside the shelter Sunday, KXAN met evacuees who had traveled to Austin from Victoria, Bloomington and Rockport.

CommUnity Care, Integral Care, Dell Medical School and Central Health are all providing resources and volunteers to meet the medical and psychiatric needs of those evacuees.

According to a release from Central Health, approximately six examination rooms were set up to provide behavioral health support and case management services.

Dr. Stephen Strakowski, the chair of psychiatry for Dell Medical School, explained that about 20 percent of the general population has some kind of mental illness, and those cases are especially common with people who have gone through a trauma like Hurricane Harvey.

Sunday was Strakowski’s first day volunteering, but his team from the medical school has been pitching in since Saturday. They are working two or three volunteers at a time, dividing work into two 12-hour shifts.

“These are all people who’ve lived through a terrible life event, and so they’re at different stages of how they’re managing with that. They’re still displaced in most cases,” said Strakowski, “Although there have been some starting to go back. A lot of the work has been providing refills and medications for people already on medications and then some of the work is reassuring and supporting people as they go through this terrible time.”

Strakowski explained that there are also around three to four primary care doctors providing help at any given time in the shelter as well as dozens of Integral Care and CUC employees.

Already, evacuees are benefiting from these services, such as Valerie Draper and Albert Salazar who evacuated from Bloomington, Texas.

“Especially for my son with autism, with his ADHD, you know, they’ve been very helpful and kind with me trying to help the best they can with his medicines and my medicines. They’ve been really helpful,” Draper said.

Draper and Salazar are in Austin with their 11- and 17-year-old children. They had to evacuate their home in Bloomington during the hurricane.

“It’s been very hectic, sad, just seeing my family shuffled around,” Draper said. “Long bus drives — we were in a bus for 14 hours from Victoria to San Antonio, then San Antonio to Austin. We didn’t have no water on the bus. Then we were stuck in the mud because of the bus driver. It’s been very, very hectic, especially with kids.”

The southeast Austin shelter is now the fourth shelter her family has stayed in. Now, they are considering relocating to Austin permanently to avoid future flooding.

Draper said that plenty of people have been offering them resources, which they appreciate, though at the moment they are overwhelmed with the devastation of losing their home and relocating. They lost their home, their possessions, their phones — they only were able to save their truck this week.

When asked what people in Austin could do to help her and her family, Draper said through tears, “Find us a home so that my kids can start school. Because they lost all their school supplies that we have already bought them and their school clothes.” provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Users who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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