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Shelter shutdown: Rumor vs. Reality

Photo source: Channel 3's Hannah Mackenzie

Northwest Florida has served as a safe haven for hundreds of people escaping Hurricane Irma's path. Their time here though, may be coming to an end and many still have nowhere to go.

About 88 people and 27 pets still call the Pensacola Bay Center home. That's according to the latest numbers from Escambia County officials. Many of the evacuees inside are worried though, after rumors started swirling that the shelter would be shut down Wednesday at noon.

With no place to go, dozens are left wondering: what will happen next?

One local woman, Vickie Neapolitian, is trying to answer that question. Vickie is raising money to buy gas cards and bus tickets to help get evacuees back on their feet and back home.

"They don't know what has happened to their homes, there is no power, there are no landlines, there is no cell service," said Vickie. "They are completely in the dark as to what is happening at home."

If you'd like to help, you can reach out to Vickie through her Facebook page, 'Indivisible Northwest Florida' or you can contact the American Red Cross Northwest Florida chapter directly at (850) 432-7601.

As for the rumored shutdown, a representative from the county told Channel 3's Hannah Mackenzie the shelter will not be closing on Wednesday; it will stay open as long as there is a need for it. That need is based on how many evacuees are still utilizing the facility, with an emphasis is on 'evacuees' - as we're told there are about one dozen local homeless people also now using the shelter.

Once the decision is made to shut down the shelter, the American Red Cross will give evacuees 24-hours' notice. If there are still people at the Pensacola Bay Center when that time comes, they'll be referred to other entities in the area, like United Way and the Salvation Army.

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