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Shelters become temporary homes for refugees of Ivan

Brookhaven has become a temporary home for many fleeingHurricane Ivan as the storm churns its way toward the GulfCoast.

After the Faith Presbyterian Church shelter opened early Tuesdayafternoon, it and Easthaven Baptist Church were at capacity byWednesday morning. Faith had 90 people and Easthaven had 257people.

“We opened it at midnight, and by 6 a.m., it was full,” saidLincoln County Civil Defense Director Clifford Galey aboutEasthaven.

As of 8 a.m. Wednesday, First Baptist Church on MonticelloStreet was serving as the main shelter for refugees coming intoBrookhaven. Other shelters were on standby if needed, said LaylaEdwards, executive director of the local American Red Crosschapter.

“We’re going to keep a good, close watch on it,” Edwards said.”It’s been very hectic, and from what I understand, we’ve got a lotmore people coming in.”

Edwards said ARC shelters on standby were Macedonia BaptistChurch, Central Baptist Church, Jackson Street United MethodistChurch and First United Methodist Church.

“We’ve had offers from several other churches,” Edwardssaid.

However, Edwards said ARC needed to have a shelter agreement inplace with those before they could open. She said an agreementcould be done on-site if necessary.

“We’ve had a really great response from the community,” saidEdwards, mentioning a lot of call offering assistance.

Edwards said the local Department of Human Services office,which has shelter-trained employees, had set up a rotating shiftplan for workers through Friday. She added that anyone willing tomake food or drinks donations may contact the ARC chapter at833-2771.

Edwards said Lawrence County officials had offered to allowrecreational vehicle and camper parking at the Atwood Water Parkand Lake Mary Crawford.

Monticello Town Clerk Ruth Spicer said the town had also openedshelters at Monticello Baptist Church and Bethel Baptist Church.They were also seeking approval to open the National Guard armoryas a shelter.

Other shelters available in the area include Sylvarena BaptistChurch and the Copiah-Lincoln Community College gym in Wesson, andFirst Baptist Church and Camp Wesley Pines in Hazlehurst, saidRandle Drane, with the Wesson Volunteer Fire Department.

Brookhaven hotels all report they are at maximum capacity withlong waiting lists.

“We quit taking people for the waiting list because it was full,too,” said Pam Erwin, a desk clerk at Hampton Inn. “We have peoplewaiting in line begging for a room, but we just don’t have any moreto give out.”

Jennifer Malone, a desk clerk at Super 8 Motel, said theirsituation was similar.

“We’re getting cancellations, but we’re filling them as quicklyas they cancel and the waiting list isn’t getting any shorter,” shesaid.

Days Inn was also swamped with evacuees seeking shelter, saidUsha Patel, assistant manager.

“We have a waiting list of 12 to 15 people with lots of peoplein line,” she said. “There are more in line every minute. It keepsgrowing.”

Contrary to published reports, Lampton Auditorium on theMississippi School of the Arts campus has not been opened as ashelter for refugees with special physical needs.

“We know that is a possibility, but we have yet to be contactedby MEMA (Mississippi Emergency Management Agency),” said MSAExecutive Director Dr. Vicki Bodenhamer. “And we are not a shelteruntil contacted by MEMA.”

At the arts school, Bodenhamer said operations would continue asnormal provided there are enough students present. Following aweather briefing earlier, she said all students’ parents werecontacted and advised of the situation.

Bodenhamer said 20 students, from various parts of the state,had been released to their parents. She said 12:30 p.m. Wednesdaywas the deadline for parents to check their students out ofschool.

“No child will be released after 12:30 p.m. today because of theweather situation,” Bodenhamer said.

Students had been scheduled to go home this weekend. However,because of the weather, they will be staying on campus.

“We have staff and services lined up to take care of them,”Bodenhamer said.

Officials for the Brookhaven and Lincoln County public schooldistricts said they were waiting a bit longer before makingdecisions on whether to shorten or cancel school days for thestorm.

Edwards said emergency shelters would be open as long as needed.Galey said the civil defense office also will be open until afterthe storm passes.

“We’re here for the duration,” Galey said.