Saturday, September 10, 2005

Vietnamese evacuees shun shelters

With Vietnamese evacuees continuing to pour into Houston, some Asian representatives worry the community may be trying to do too much on its own. The uncounted thousands of Vietnamese storm victims are not going to the Astrodome or the George R. Brown Convention Center to seek help from the government, leaders say. Instead, many gather at Hong Kong City Mall on Bellaire, a privately run mall where they are being connected with ample free food and housing from fellow Vietnamese — help that cannot last indefinitely. "The problem is, because the Vietnamese are not in the shelters, they are not receiving assistance" from the government and the American Red Cross, said Nguyen Dinh Thang, the head of Boat People S.O.S., a group that has helped Vietnamese from its Hong Kong City Mall office. Many of the Vietnamese from New Orleans and Mississippi are staying with family and friends, while others are staying at Vietnamese Catholic churches and Buddhist temples. Some need medical attention, and many continue to look for lost relatives. Some Vietnamese say they expect to stay in Houston permanently, which should solidify the city's role as the Vietnamese cultural center for the Gulf Coast. Though no one has an exact estimate, leaders say they think well more than 10,000 Vietnamese evacuees are now in Houston, on top of the 60,000 who already live in the region.


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