Congressman Visits Possible Special Needs Storm Shelter Site

People with special needs don't always have a place where they can take shelter during a serious storm. A group of people are working hard to change that, taking their case to Congress.

A vacant building on Florida State Hospital grounds in Chattahoochee was used during 2004's Hurricane Dennis as a temporary special needs shelter. Then, only one wing was used and it was only for local residents.

Jim Devane with Emergency Management in Chattahoochee says, "With the high cost of building now-a-days, this building is already standing. We have four floors, 120,000 square feet to work with; why not go ahead and use it?"

City, county and state officials are asking U.S. Cong. Allen Boyd to support their vision of turning the entire building into a regional shelter, specifically for those with special needs, making it the only of its kind in the area.

Diane James, an administrator for Florida State Hospital, says, "It's solid, it's vacant, it has emergency backup power. It has a sprinkler system. It's on the campus of Florida State Hospital."

The officials say having a regional shelter would reduce the need for staffing multiple locations.

U.S. Rep. Allen Boyd, (D) FL, Second District, says, "These folks here are thinking about how to expand the use of that, make it more effective to serve those special needs. I'm pleased to be here brainstorming with them and thinking about how we can be improving people’s lives."

Getting the building up to Red Cross standards could cost $3 million.

The facility would serve nearly a dozen north Florida counties. Cong. Boyd says he'll help the group explore additional resources.