HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) – An Enterprise rental car looks a little out of place parked next to the very posh Valobra Master Jewelers on Westheimer, but Franco Valobra wouldn’t want it any other way.
“When Katrina met sixteen years ago there was no way to stay there,” said the Italian, who now lives in New Orleans and now lives in Houston. “Houston welcomed me with open arms.”
Before the unplanned evacuation to Houston, Valobra ran his shop of the same name in New Orleans. The move turned into a business boom when it opened another store in town. Now he uses the shop as a temporary collection point for relief supplies.
Petrol cans, paper towels, water and other supplies were loaded on Friday. Valobra encouraged Houstonians to donate between Friday and next week before the truck drives to New Orleans.
“We’ll do it by Tuesday, and the trucks will leave on Wednesday. If we have another truck, we’ll bring another one and fill it up,” said Valobra.
And the state of Louisiana could certainly use it. Many churches are still without electricity and that could very well stay that way for weeks. Damaged homes have no real schedule for repairs.
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“We worked so hard to find a home for her,” said Shelby Bryan, a Baton Rouge evacuee. “We worked, saved, worked on our credit, and now the house has been destroyed after only four months there.”
Bryan, who has an 18-month-old son, said they packed everything they could into a small car and drove to a Houston hotel when they realized they would be without power. She said she doesn’t know if her daughter Rori will ever spend another night at her house.
“I don’t know what we’re going to do next in life,” said Noel. “But we have nowhere to go. We don’t know our next step.”
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Hundreds of college students in New Orleans also remain displaced.
Fortunately, the University of Houston-Downtown opened a student aid center on Friday afternoon. There were shirts, bags of groceries and a coveted HEB gift card for every college student who arrived on the UHD campus.
“It’s great,” said Becky Nguyen, a Xavier University student who is currently staying at a Houston hotel. “It’s really nice that UHD is doing this for us because I know they went through Harvey, so it’s really nice that they are doing that for us too.”
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