HOUSTON — Of all the places that have been turned into shelters for Hurricane Harvey victims — a megachurch, a ballpark, a gas station, a bowling alley, among them — the one with the most comfortable sleeping arrangements surely must be the Gallery Furniture showroom.
Owner Jim McIngvale, better known as Mattress Mack, threw open a couple of his stores to anyone in need, offering food, clean bathrooms and, of course, luxury bedding.
“If this is what you call a shelter, I might not want to go home,” said 47-year-old India Jackson, who marveled at the silky pillowcases, the $1,000 mattresses and the atrium with its live ocelot and colorful macaws.
With more than 17,000 people flooded out of their houses, big-hearted Texans, religious institutions and businesses have turned their places into unlikely shelters, offering soaked, frightened and disconsolate storm refugees — two-legged and four-legged alike — a safe and warm place to sleep.
Some of these places have proved a homier alternative to the convention centers that have taken in more than 10,000.
At Gallery Furniture in Richmond, just outside Houston, a clown and a face-painter delighted the children on Wednesday. On Tuesday, an out-of-state businessman ordered lamb chop dinners from a fine Houston restaurant for the roughly 150 people at the store.
To relieve evacuees’ stress, employees direct them to a meditation area, with soft music and a thousand-gallon fish tank with sharks, stingrays and exotic fish.
Jackson, who was evacuated from her home in Katy, on Monday, said her temporary bed at Mattress Mack’s is a Tempur-Pedic just like the one she has at home, only nicer. “Yeah, I am going to upgrade,” she said.
“Mattress Mack. He’s the most loving person in Houston,” she said. “He turned his store into a resort for refugees.”