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Event Venues Become Shelters for Storm Evacuees


On Tuesday, Aug. 29, the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas began welcoming those displaced from Hurricane Harvey’s destruction in Southeast Texas to one of its air-conditioned hybrid parking garage/event spaces. Cots, clothing, food, medicine—the living essentials those escaping a natural disaster require—were all available.

A convention center turned shelter. You don’t want to see this (because it implies a major tragedy that’s upended countless lives), but at the same time, it’s heartwarming as it indicates significant effort from public, private and government groups all coming together to serve friends, family and strangers in times of need.

Much closer to the disaster, which saw catastrophic flooding and the heaviest rainfall in U.S. history, shelter efforts involving the transformation of large event venues into temporary cities for evacuees have been significantly greater. More than 9,000 evacuees have been housed at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston. That’s twice the anticipated capacity.

In a statement, Leah Shah from Visit Houston said it’s still too early to know the duration for which the convention center will double as a shelter. In fact, the need in the city has been so great that NRG Stadium—home of the NFL’s Houston Texans—has been augmented to accommodate up to 10,000. According to the Houston Chronicle, the plan for transforming and opening the stadium to evacuees came together in a mere six hours.

Another event venue—the civic center in Port Arthur, just east of Houston—also acted as a shelter for evacuees until it, too, had to be evacuated due to flood waters.

The larger problems wrought by Hurricane Harvey are far from over—the water has not even receded—yet at the convention center in Dallas, the sheer volume of expected evacuees has not yet been seen. The center was prepared to house up to 5,000, but has now registered about 1,000 people after an influx of evacuees arrived overnight last night and this morning (Sept. 1).

“If we don’t get the influx of people, how do we scale down and how do we have the surge capacity if people would come?” Rocky Vaz of the Dallas Office of Emergency Management told local news station Fox 4. “So we are taking all of that into consideration. We are not standing down anything.”

The process of resettling those homeless from this disaster doesn’t end when the flooded homes are dry, however. Vaz said that Dallas is prepared to help evacuees for weeks, as needed. Want to help victims of Hurricane Harvey? Consider donating to the Red Cross or the MPI Houston Area Chapter Disaster Relief Fund, which will directly benefit MPI members impacted by Hurricane Harvey.

About the Author

Michael Pinchera

Michael Pinchera is an award-winning writer and editor for The Meeting Professional as well as a speaker, technologist and contributor to business, academic and pop culture publications since 1997. Read more of his work at