Amid the Evacuees

How churches in Houston, among other cities, began picking up the pieces.

Shalaura Daniels shuffles into the stands of the Astrodome, her infant nephew straddling her hip. Another nephew toddles ahead of her. Daniels, a member of a New Orleans Baptist church called My Redeemer, collapses into an end seat and surveys the arena's cot-covered floor with thousands from New Orleans whom Hurricane Katrina made homeless. And she cries.

Those now dwelling on the Astrodome floor began arriving Wednesday in bus caravans from the flood-devastated city. Partly filled Hefty garbage bags near some cots hold the only possessions the murky waters didn't swallow.

A gray-haired man lying on his cot, bare feet protruding from a blanket, struggles to sip water. A small portable urinal hangs on the walker next to him.

A teenager's unbuttoned shirt reveals homemade tattoos covering his chest and arms. He roams the arena's perimeter with other boys whose bodies bear similar markings.

A young woman limps in flip-flops, one foot bound in white tape.

Children and babies are everywhere.

Pink wristbands mark each as Astrodome residents. They rode out the hurricane at home, in the Superdome, in New Orleans's convention center, or elsewhere because they were too poor or too frail to evacuate, had no car to leave in, or had no place to go outside the city. Now they hobble off buses and into the Astrodome in unrelenting waves. Hundreds queue for a meal.

Some 220,000 storm survivors are housed in shelters across Texas; 130,000 evacuees are in shelters and hotels in Houston alone.

And like Daniels, almost all are black.

Daniels's family waited out the storm in the New Orleans convention center with no food, no water, no electricity, and no working toilets. Media broadcast news of rapes, looting, murders, bedlam, and dead bodies everywhere. ...

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