Louisiana Tech’s Memorial Gymnasium is sheltering 80 Hurricane Gustav special needs evacuees currently and will house an extra 70 within the next few hours.

Alan Perry, director of the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Central California Health Care System, said the new evacuees are coming from a shelter in Monroe which has lost power.

‘We expect them by 6 p.m.,’ Perry said. ‘We’ll identify them, assess their needs and take care of them the best we can. Most of the evacuees here have special needs; they are people who came from nursing homes or care homes and needed special attention.’

The team, which includes physicians, nurses, drivers, and secretaries from all around the country, received their first group of evacuees within two hours of arriving in Ruston on Sunday.

‘They rallied in the most magnificent manner I have ever seen,’ Perry said. ‘They set up as best they could in two hours. The evacuees were individuals who came from of the inner city of New Orleans. They had been on the bus going from shelter to shelter for 30 hours. It was a relief for them to come to this shelter, and it was very gratifying to us to give them a chance to rest and care for them.’

Perry said he has received a warm welcome and a great deal of assistance from the university and from the city.

‘We have wonderful support from Louisiana Tech officials,’ he said. ‘They come here daily to make sure everything is going well for us, and the community has opened their arms to us and been wonderful hosts.’

Perry said once New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin declares the city safe, it should take one to two days for the VA team to arrange transport the evacuees back home. Perry and his team will not be finished with their job, though.

‘We’re heading to Tallahassee (Fla.),’ he said. ‘We’re going to set up for this next hurricane.

‘The work is difficult, it’s challenging, but it’s a richly rewarding experience. People don’t even know us, but they’re saying