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Among friends in St. Petersburg High shelter in advance of Irma

Carla Gamble was the first to arrive at St. Petersburg High School when it opened as a shelter Saturday. [COLLEEN WRIGHT | Times]

Carla Gamble was the first to arrive at St. Petersburg High School when it opened as a shelter Saturday. [COLLEEN WRIGHT | Times]

ST. PETERSBURG — The shelter at St. Petersburg High School feels like home to Carla Gamble.

With the heads-up from a community policeman, she was the first to arrive Saturday when the school was opened to accommodate a new wave of evacuees from Hurricane Irma. Her neon green wristband was marked with a 1.

That policeman was there, and as residents trickled in, Gamble, 49, recognized familiar faces: other community police officers, former classmates, co-workers from old jobs and other homeless people from Williams Park, where she had recently been staying.

"I broke a record coming through the door," she said. "And I broke a record with politeness."

Settled in a prime spot facing the Wi-Fi password printed on the wall, she's also made new friends. She shares chocolate chip and marshmallow Rice Krispies treats, and another homeless man gave her a spare heather-gray blanket.

"So far it's been nice here," Gamble said. "This has been laid back, more my pace."

She had a copy of Elle magazine to keep her busy, and her Holy Bible to keep her sane.

And she prays. She prays that her storage unit doesn't flood, and she prays that her mail in her post officed box is safe.

She is anxious for the storm to pass, but knows she may have to stay. Hurricane Jose is just days out.

"Hopefully," she said, "they'll let me stay here."

Contact Colleen Wright at [email protected] Follow @Colleen_Wright.

Among friends in St. Petersburg High shelter in advance of Irma 09/10/17 [Last modified: Sunday, September 10, 2017 2:43pm]
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