FSU alums give up homecoming reservations to help Michael evacuees

Hotels say many visitors offering to stay elsewhere, so evacuees have shelter

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – With thousands of alumni ready to descend on Tallahassee for Florida State University's homecoming this weekend, hotels in the state capital that are currently housing Hurricane Michael evacuees face a dilemma.

“When hoteliers make reservations, they do have to honor those reservations,” said Amanda Handley, with the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association.

But so far, Handley said, people have responded with compassion.

“Many folks -- we have heard from our members -- have willingly given up their reservations or said, 'We'll find another place to stay,' so that they can come in and keep the rooms for the evacuees,” Handley said.

Peter and  Renee Schlyen fled Marianna -- which was hard hit by Michael -- and were lucky enough to find a room in Tallahassee through Thursday.

“We'd rather be at the home. We left our cats in the home. We have to go back for them and also to wait on the restoration of power,” Peter Schlyen said.

The community and state have had to work together to come up with creative ways to house workers and evacuees. FSU said up to 600 people can be housed at the civic center on campus.

Gov. Rick Scott said the state is working with the federal government to help evacuees find shelter.

“We're going to do everything we can to keep helping people,” Scott said. “Your heart goes out to anybody who can't be in their house.”

And the American Red Cross said it has shelter space available.

“We welcome everyone into our shelters. We provide meals, comfort, cots, blankets,” said Gail McGovern, president of the American Red Cross.

Scott even opened up the governor’s mansion to host highway patrol troopers sent to help with the recovery.

Any evacuees unable to find a room this weekend can go to redcross.org to find nearby shelters. The American Red Cross is also asking for additional volunteers to help at shelters.