DeSoto officials agree to not do shelter background checks




Posted on August 30, 2012 at 12:20 PM

Updated Sunday, Nov 3 at 9:29 PM

DESOTO - DeSoto officials and authorities have reversed a previous decision to do background checks at a DeSoto shelter after a meeting with a church pastor and Red Cross officials.

The number of evacuees at the Red Cross shelter at the Faith Bible Church in DeSoto went from one to 50 people overnight, spurring security concerns, according the DeSoto Mayor Carl Sherman.

"We are doing our due diligence and we want to make sure everyone is safe," he said.

City officials and authorities decided to do background checks on evacuees at the shelter starting today. However, that decision was changed after a meeting with a pastor at the church and Red Cross officials.

Bob Lydia, national board member and president of the Texas NAACP, said he was tipped off to the move by an outraged evacuee.

"It is truly unfair," he said. "I think it's illegal."

Lydia spoke with both the DeSoto police chief and the mayor about the decision.

Both Anita Foster, a spokeswoman for Red Cross, and Kurt Khron, the senior pastor at the church, said they were unaware of the background checks. While Foster said the Red Cross has numerous procedures to ensure safety at shelters, including keeping families separate from others, she said it is not their policy to do background checks.

The senior pastor at Faith Bible Church said he was shocked to hear about the checks and urged evacuees to stay. Khron said at least one to two officers are at the scene of the shelter at all times.

"They have gone through enough trauma," Khron said. "... Just the standard Red Cross forms they fill out are efficient. We don't need anything further. I don't know what there would be further anyway."

"We are not coming here to hurt anybody," said Kenyon Turner, an evacuee from Braithwaite, one of the hardest his areas in Louisiana. "We came to save ourselves."

Visibly upset, Turner, a pastor and musician, said he has already made the decision to make North Texas his home upon hearing the news that his church and home were submerged in water.