Pasco County

Pasco shelter takes in hurricane evacuees with special needs

54 people, caregivers and pets are in Hudson

Hudson, FLA - More than 50 people with medical issues who evacuated from their homes ahead of Hurricane Michael are now at a shelter in Pasco County. 

Conditions in the Panhandle are dismal— there's no water, no sewer, and no electricity and many of their homes are not livable. So, dozens packed up their belongings and headed to Pasco County with their caregivers. Many of them brought pets. 

Like many places nearby, Sheri Botzong's Panama City home is missing a roof and possible flooding is forcing her and her service dog to stay at the Hudson shelter. 

“She has helped me through so much.  So much” said Botzong, with her service dog, Mae Mae in her arms.

Special needs evacuees arrived by ambulance and by special vans after making the long trip from North Florida. “The rewards that we get just seeing people happy again, after everything that they've lost, anything that we can do to help, we're here for em',” said Jamison Hitman, who drove a van down to the shelter. 

Coordinating staff, equipment, beds, food and all the other necessary items, is a big task. 

“When the state called and said we need to use your facility, by the end of the day yesterday, the building was prepped and ready to go” said Interim EOC Director, Andy Fossa.

Military veteran James De St. Aubin could be here for two months with his cat "Sammy".

"Whatever it takes.  You’re gonna have to, ya know. I've been through worse.  The thing is, it's, we'll see how livable it is,” he said.

Each day, the group will get two hot meals served by staff. 

“This is the hardest thing I've ever done.  And I hope and pray nobody ever has to go through this because it’s bad.  It's really bad,” said Sheri Botzong.

This is truly a rare instance. But with shelters up north in shambles, there are few alternatives.


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