Refugees must make room for football fans
By S.V. Date, COX NEWS SERVICE
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — First it was Hurricane Katrina chasing them away. Now it's college football fans.
Hundreds of refugees from Hurricane Katrina are being evicted from Tallahassee hotels to accommodate fans coming to town for the Miami-Florida State game Monday night.
"There is absolutely no compassion here whatsoever," Lynne Bernard wrote on a bulletin board on the Web site of The Times-Picayune of New Orleans. "The Hampton Inn in Tallahassee is pretty much throwing us out because of a football game."
A message left for the manager at the Hampton Inn was not returned, but other hoteliers said there was little they could do to help those who fled homes in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama because they had to honor long-standing reservations for the football weekend.
At the Courtyard Marriott near the Capitol, evacuees were taking up 15 of the hotel's 154 rooms on Wednesday. A Quality Inn had several dozen of its 90 rooms occupied by storm refugees.
"This weekend has been booked for a couple of months," said Antwan Hinkle, the Quality Inn's front desk manager.
Hinkle said people who have planned trips for months would not take it well if they were told just days before the game that the hotel
could not provide rooms. "We're going to have a whole bunch of angry people," he said.
Christian Heritage Church announced plans to open its doors for as many as 200 refugees for four nights starting Friday, then began referring people to the local chapter of the American Red Cross, which is planning to open shelters for as many as 3,000.
"When Miami fans come in, it pretty much takes over Tallahassee," said Cheryl Everett, a church volunteer. She said the church planned to start serving meals to refugees Wednesday evening.
Katrina's refugees are not the first to feel the FSU squeeze. Lawmakers brought in for special sessions during the fall know that their prestige means nothing when they compete for hotel rooms with football fans. And if they extend their sessions into May, they know the feeling of getting evicted in favor of parents arriving for graduation ceremonies.