Make us your home page


Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Full but not full, shelters work to accommodate last minute storm residents



TAMPA - They kept coming and coming, even though signs on the gate told them, in two languages, that the shelter was full.

They came because the streets in Town ‘N Country flood even in a normal rain. They came because that third floor apartment in Citrus Park suddenly did not feel so safe.

They looked for people with pink wristbands, meaning they already had beds, and got advice in the parking lot.

One by one, or in some cases in groups of five and seven, they found a volunteer who could squeeze them into a hallway.

"It's shelter," said Alicia Simmons, who was at Cannella Elementary School with three children, twin six-year-old daughters and a 13 year-old son. "It's safety first."

Those who had spent the night at Cannella, some on blankets in the hallways, said they slept fitfully but tried to make the best of the situation.

"It's hectic, but what can you do?" said 44-year-old Marilyn Hawkins, who was there with her adult son. "I had a blanket and a pillow on a chair. My son made a pallet."

Simmons had to try and ignore loud snoring nearby. "I thought there was a bear in the building," she said.

But, like the others, she was grateful for a stable roof overhead.

Some said the school was too chilly. They went home to get blankets before settling in for another night.

Dinner was pizza and fruit. Breakfast included cartons of chocolate milk.

William Hodge, 65, spent the early morning pacing the school breezeway, looking for someone who could tell him if he might stay. "I live on the water," he said. Vishal Modi, there with his wive and four other family members including a 9 year old child, was in the same position.

After about 20 minutes, he got the good word: Cannella would take his family.

A couple with three children and a small dog left, hearing the shelter was full and fearing they would wind up stranded.

Another couple with a teenage daughter pulled up in a pickup truck, just four days living in the Tampa, speaking mostly Spanish. A volunteer with a clipboard smiled and took their names.

Fifth grade teacher Chynna Stevens, one of many school district volunteers who are manning the shelters, scurried around from the front office to the cafeteria, where food servers were trying to open up, as promised, at 8 a.m.

"What do you need us to do? You tell us," she called through the kitchen door.

When the cafeteria opened, there was a long line.

And the rain was just beginning to pour down.

Contact Marlene Sokol at (813) 810-5068 or Follow @marlenesokol. 

[Last modified: Sunday, September 10, 2017 10:22am]


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours