Killeen shelters were housing about 100 Hurricane Harvey evacuees, and the shelter in Harker Heights housed about 75 people, officials said Thursday.
Countywide, more than 400 evacuees are staying in shelters, according to Bell County Emergency Management Coordinator Michael Harmon.
“Right now, our total is 422 evacuees,” Harmon said late Thursday. The county’s capacity is 1,390, he said previously.
There are currently 11 shelters in Bell County, with nine presently housing evacuees and two being held in reserve.
Harker Heights’ shelter is the Harker Heights Parks and Recreation Center, but Harmon said all county evacuees would be moved to Killeen today..
Killeen had three shelters in use Thursday — the Killeen Community Center, the old Fairway Middle School building and the First United Methodist Church. The remaining seven shelters are in Temple and Belton.
Officials were not expecting a large influx into the Heights shelter, but they were prepared to house 100, if necessary.
City employees, primarily through the parks and recreation department, have been managing the shelter throughout this week.
Police Chief Mike Gentry sent officers to provide security. The fire department was also on call 24/7 to respond to any medical emergencies at the shelter, Sims said.
“The shelter was well managed under the direction of Jerry Bark, director of Parks and Recreation, and his team,” Sims said. “The city finance office has also helped capture vital information for reimbursement purposes from the state.”
Harker Heights Parks and Recreation last Friday began setting up the shelter that would hold up to 100 people at the recreation center across from City Hall.
“The giving spirit of the city is displayed by all the offices and storage space in Parks and Recreation,” Sims said. “They are filled with stacks of water and Gatorade, fruit, snacks and that’s only a part of it.”
On Wednesday, the city was attempting to centralize the donation process under the leadership of donations coordinator Lisa Youngblood, director of the Harker Heights Public Library.
“People continued to bring donations to our shelter out of their benevolent hearts, but the Heights location on Wednesday had reached capacity to store clothing and food items,” Sims said.
The Killeen Special Events Center, 3301 S. W.S. Young Drive, opened Tuesday as a centralized site for donations, officials said.
On Thursday, County Judge Jon Burrows announced the evacuees’ needs were met, and the county no longer needed additional donations of food or clothing.
Ever since the first group of evacuees arrived in Harker Heights, the Salvation Army has served them three meals a day, Sims said. A number of businesses have assisted in that mission.
Killeen Independent School District Superintendent John Craft was on site at the Fairway shelter Wednesday, and said the idea of using the building as an evacuation shelter came up when the district knew there was potential for the city to be activated to accept evacuees.
Craft said roughly 50 children from evacuated families have been enrolled in schools in Killeen and Harker Heights, and that they are expected to start classes as early as Monday.
With the assistance of Kerry-Ann Frazier, coordinator of the Healthy Homes Program at the Harker Heights Police Department, children staying in the Heights shelter were transported beginning Tuesday to Killeen ISD elementary, middle and high schools within the city limits of Harker Heights.
School-age children in the area staying with friends and family members may register at the neighborhood school where they are staying, Welch said.
At the old Fairway school, Harker Heights businessmen George Avery, owner of Grime Fighters, and Alvin Whitehead, owner of Sticky Bones Barbeque, volunteered to provide the evening meal for the evacuees.
The shelter at Fairway Middle School opened late Tuesday night after local volunteers, school district facilities crew and the American Red Cross transformed the closed school building into a relief shelter, according to a KISD report from Todd Martin.
Buses brought evacuees from the Houston area to a Bell County annex facility in Belton to Killeen and Harker Heights Tuesday night and continued through the day Wednesday.
Red Cross Shelter Manager Lee Webber praised the local effort to provide for South Texans in need. “This community has been great,” she said. “I’ve never seen a community do more. It’s been amazing.”
The Hurricane Harvey relief page on the FEMA website lists several ways to help evacuees. The tips given indicate that financial assistance is most needed, with cash donations being the best option.