Population at City's Katrina Shelters Drops Quickly

Nearly as fast as they arrived in Houston, thousands of Hurricane Katrina evacuees are finding new places to stay, which has led to a dramatic drop in population at the city's four largest shelters.

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Just a few days ago, officials estimated there were close to 25,000 evacuees at the Reliant Park complex and the convention center. Now, that number has dropped to just over 8,000, with only around 3,000 still inside the Astrodome. Incident Commander Lt. Joe Leonard says evacuees are free to go at any time. He says officials have no say on when and where they go and are actually happy to see them find new places to stay.

He says the command staff will consider consolidating some of the larger shelters. Meanwhile, Houston Police say they've made 45 arrests in and around shelters since last week. Police chief Harold Hurtt says there has been no increase in crime and that officers are responding to about 60 calls a day, which is normal.

He says an 11 o'clock curfew at the shelters and an increased police presence have been factors in the low crime numbers. He says the majority of the arrests have been for public intoxication and drug possession. One man was arrested in the Reliant Center for impersonating a doctor.

Bio photo of Jack Williams

Jack Williams

Director of News Programming

News Director Jack Williams has been with Houston Public Radio since August of 2000. He's also a reporter and anchor for Houston Public Radio's local All Things Considered segments...