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Some of Columbus’ Hurricane Dorian evacuees are homeless and had nowhere else to go

Hurricane Dorian evacuees thankful for safety of Columbus Civic Center

Brandi King,44, of Glynn County, Georgia is among the Hurricane Dorian evacuees being housed at an American Red Cross shelter at the Columbus Civic Center in Columbus, Georgia. She's homeless, and thankful for a safe play to shelter from the storm.
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Brandi King,44, of Glynn County, Georgia is among the Hurricane Dorian evacuees being housed at an American Red Cross shelter at the Columbus Civic Center in Columbus, Georgia. She's homeless, and thankful for a safe play to shelter from the storm.

Brandi King had to leave.

Residents living in parts of Georgia’s coast were told to evacuate, and King said she wasn’t about to try to ride out Hurricane Dorian in the streets.

King, 44, is homeless — like a portion of the roughly 300 people being housed at a Red Cross shelter at the Columbus Civic Center as the storm inches its way north in the Atlantic Ocean.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp ordered a mandatory evacuation for all residents east of Interstate 95 in Bryan, Camden, Chatham, Glynn, Liberty and McIntosh counties beginning Monday.

The American Red Cross of West Central Georgia, in partnership with the city, began using the civic center as a shelter Monday night. It opened just hours before the first busload of evacuees arrived, said Adelaide Kirk, executive director, Red Cross of West Central Georgia.

As of Wednesday afternoon, around 300 people were being housed at the shelter. The civic center could hold 800 to 1,000 evacuees, Kirk said.

Animal evacuees could also be arriving in Columbus. Paws Humane Society at 4900 Milgen Road is assisting, according to the Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency. It’s unclear how many animals have arrived in Columbus.

Nearly all of the people currently housed at the civic center are residents who couldn’t have left without assistance, but the shelter is open to all Dorian evacuees. All of the evacuees at the civic center Wednesday afternoon were from Glynn County in southeast Georgia, Kirk said. The county is home to St. Simons Island and the city of Brunswick.

King said she left Glynn County Monday afternoon with a good friend and her adopted daughter. They were hanging out at a homeless day shelter when talk about evacuation began. They were taken to another location to get on a school bus for the nearly five-hour trip.

King estimated about 25 to 50 people at the civic center came from the homeless day shelter.

“It means a lot to a lot of us who are homeless,” she said of being brought to Columbus. “If not, we would be stuck. ...You get rained on and, you know, you could get sick. My daughter … has problems. I am a Type-2 diabetic, and unless I get my insulin that I have to take, I’m in trouble.”

Evacuees who arrive at the civic center get a cot and a blanket. The Red Cross will serve them three meals and provide some snacks. They also are given some basic toiletry items, Kirk said.

At this point, the Red Cross doesn’t need any material supplies or items, Kirk said.

She recommends residents who wish to help donate money to the Red Cross. You can donate online, by phone at 1-800-HELP NOW (1-800-435-7669) or text “Dorian” to 90999.

The evacuees will remain in Columbus for an undetermined period of time. It will be controlled by the storm and what kind of damage coastal Georgia counties receive, Kirk said.

For evacuees like King, that puts their lives on hold. She said she’ll have to reschedule a job interview at a call center that was set for later this week.

“I have a job interview coming up, so that’ll get us off the streets,” she said. “All three of us.”

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Nick Wooten is the Southern Trends and Culture reporter for McClatchy’s South region. He is based in Columbus, Georgia at the Ledger-Enquirer but his work also appears in The (Macon) Telegraph and The Sun Herald in Biloxi.Before joining McClatchy, he worked for The (Shreveport La.) Times covering city government and investigations. He is a graduate of Mercer University in Macon, Georgia.
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