Last week when Texans were living through a historically cold winter weather event without power, safe drinking water, and many without food to eat, several Corpus Christi area residents sought shelter at the American Bank Center in downtown Corpus Christi. Local government officials had designated the site as the location where those needing a warm place to rest could find respite. What they ended up with was being shuffled to alternative sites because the power went out there, too. Now, as the weather warms up so does the questioning.
Public officials decided to take part of Friday and some of the weekend patting each other on the back for the job well done. Some council members and the Mayor took to social media bragging about how well things worked. But the harsh reality is that it looks like the plan to house those in the most need at the American Bank Center was flawed from the start.
The American Bank Center is a great place for sporting events, concerts, conferences and almost anything else. What it is not is a good emergency shelter during any time of crisis. Under normal conditions there would have likely been warming centers set up throughout the community and the so-called “FEMA Domes” would have been the most likely places to house those who needed shelter. Instead, city officials decided that a centralized location such as the American Bank Center was a better alternative.
We reached out to a few city leaders on Friday and over the weekend to see if they would (or could) offer some insight into why the American Bank Center was chosen? They have yet to respond—and they likely won’t because they are too busy telling each other and their supporters about how great of a job they did while everybody else just shakes their head in doubt.
The city and mayor have been very cordial to certain groups that want the homeless relocated entirely downtown and out of their neighborhoods. That argument could stand if this were entirely about the city’s homeless. It is also about the poor and those who simply needed a warm place to get out of the cold.
Libraries and schools lost power during the historic cold snap but other places did exist. The biggest part of the problem was transportation. Police spent much of their time working to relocate vulnerable citizens to the American Bank Center—they did what they could do with what they had. It was city leadership that apparently failed and it might very well have been due to a lack of experience and know-how.
The city is due for a review of their emergency action plan and the 2021 Atlantic Hurricane Season is just around the corner. It would be good to know that city leaders would have their act together sooner rather than later—perhaps taking a look at the Major Incident Response Plan wouldn’t be a bad idea either. But then again you’d have to find it in order to revise it.