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No plans yet in Colorado Springs for Hurricane Harvey evacuees

City welcomed Hurricane Katrina victims in 2005

No plans yet in Colorado Springs for Harvey evacuees

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - There are no plans in Colorado Springs so far to provide shelter and other assistance to evacuees of Hurricane Harvey, a city official said Wednesday.

Richard Skorman, president of the City Council, was also on the council in 2005 when he helped many Hurricane Katrina evacuees find shelter and other services.

"We're talking about it and thinking about it but have no set plan yet," he said.  "I'm proud of what we did in 2005, and I think the mayor and council will step forward again if needed."

Skorman was among a group of leaders who sent buses to Houston where many Katrina evacuees were.

"It was an unprecedented disaster," he said.  "So many people were displaced and needed help.  I know there was some criticism about us bringing in a large number of people who had no homes or jobs.  But we felt a need to do something to help."

Skorman said city leaders began forming a Katrina assistance plan when evacuees began showing up at his downtown businesses on Tejon Street.

"They had heard this was a good place to come and get help," he said.  "They'd lost everything and had nowhere to go."

Skorman said the city brought around 2,000 evacuees to the city -- with another 1,000 arriving on their own -- and took them to a formerly vacant utility building next to America the Beautiful Park.

"We had cots set up there to sleep on, showers, food, water and a staff to help evacuees find jobs and housing," he said."

Only around a fourth of the 3,000 Katrina evacuees remain in the area, Skorman said.

Among those who settled in the city is Robert Brunet, also known as Chef BB, of Momma Pearl's Cajun Kitchen in northwest Colorado Springs.

"Friends helped us get here," he said.  "We didn't lose our house in New Orleans, but with power out and flooding everywhere, we knew we wouldn't go back to work for several months."

Brunet said his wife, Becky, formerly lived in Colorado Springs and learned that Skorman sought to help evacuees.

"I told my three kids we were going on an adventure," Brunet said.  "We stayed with a family in the Broadmoor area for a while.  Then we bought a house and made a commitment to stay here."

Brunet said he found a job in information technology with the Air Force while his wife worked at local hotels.

But the family found itself starting over again in 2010.

"That was the second storm -- the recession," Brunet said.  "My wife and I lost our jobs, our house got repossessed.  I turned 50 that year and decided to reinvent myself."

So the Brunets opened their restaurant.

"It's going well," he said.  "We like Colorado Springs.  My advice to Harvey evacuees is, there's life after the storm.  It's going to be tough.  I felt like I was in survival mode for nearly five years after I got here."

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