Nearly 850 still living at Baton Rouge River Center
BATON ROUGE- Almost two weeks after catastrophic flooding swamped many communities in our area, hundreds are still living in shelters.
The Red Cross operates the shelter and said the number of people who are staying there is decreasing each day. The Red Cross estimates it could be another three weeks before they can even begin discussing shutting it down.
Van Ray's injuries aren't easy to look at. The disabled husband and father almost died 15 years ago.
'I was in a car fire, and I was actually baked alive," Ray recalled.
The heat from that fire now leaves him relying on others to live.
"I lost both eyes, my nose, the left side of my face, my mouth...right hand, half of my left foot," Ray said. "I was burned over 68 percent of my body from head to toe."
That fire ignited a spirit that is now giving others hope in an arena full of despair. The River Center is now Ray's home. ray and his wife had to get rescued out of their Glen Oaks home. Tonight, he's among 850 others trying to make sense out of losing everything. Ray and his wife are using their past experiences to give others hope.
"If you look at this as a tragedy, this will be a tragedy for you," Ray's wife Patricia said. "Sometimes, we have to stop thinking physically and start thinking spiritually. Start seeing these things. Wait a minute I'm still here I still have a chance."
Those messages from these resilient people have others knowing they'll eventually get out of here. We're told most were renters, which has left them in a tricky position without a place to go and not many apartments to chose from.
"Families will be encouraged with assistance coming to them, state, federal or Red Cross to connect with resources we provide so they can start building their recovery plan," Roberto Baltodano with the Red Cross said.
Monday, FEMA money began hitting bank accounts according to the Red Cross. That allowed some to check out. Others are in the process of finding more permanent housing. As people begin to transition, perhaps the best advice comes from Van Ray who is grateful he didn't die 15 years ago.
"All the stuff was material," Ray said. "All this can be replaced. You can't replace your soul and spirit. We're only passing through this life."
The Red Cross estimates it has spent 35-40 million dollars to help families get back on their feet since the flooding began. The organization says this is the largest response to a disaster since Super Storm Sandy. We're told a number of events that were scheduled at the River Center over the past week have been canceled.