We got the press release late Wednesday afternoon, just as the Mount Soledad landslide evacuees were wondering themselves where they were going to lay their heads that night.

The local Red Cross opened up a shelter at La Jolla High School for the refugees, whose homes were in one the most exclusive zip codes in the county, if not the United States.

I was curious if anyone would show up.

At about 7 p.m., I walked into the high school’s gymnasium, the site of the makeshift shelter, wondering if I would be able to catch some of the charity in action. Several Red Cross staff members and volunteers were assembled in the gym’s bleachers, devising their strategy for accommodating refugees they expected to arrive shortly after City Attorney Mike Aguirre’s community forum, which was being held just down Draper Avenue.

The Red Cross assured me they were prepared. Piping hot meals waited in insulated bags by the dozens. Other snacks and beverages for 100 people were ready to be served. Sleeping bags were on hand and a tarp was spread out across the basketball court’s waxed wood planks for those without a place to stay. They asked if I was hungry, but I politely declined and told them I’d be back later.

When I returned this morning, the volunteers were still on duty. I found them huddled in the gym’s vestibule, chatting with a police officer and a local, who looked like he came by to bring these do-gooders some good cheer after a long night.

I quietly asked a Red Cross official for a head count of those who were served, but it was obvious. No sleeping bags were strewn across the gym’s floor. The table of food appeared untouched.

“We open the shelter in case anybody needs assistance,” said Lee Durand, the shelter manager. “Thank God we didn’t have anybody. Everybody was able to take care of themselves.”

EVAN McLAUGHLIN

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