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Katrina Victims Get Only 6 Month Extension

From the Houston Chronicle:

People dance past a flood-damaged house during the Big Nine Social and Pleasure club’s first official parade since Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward, Louisiana, December 17, 2006.

Katrina evacuees say they need more than extension

They welcome more time with housing help but say the problem is more long-term

By MIKE SNYDER

A six-month extension of emergency housing assistance will stave off an immediate catastrophe but will not solve the underlying problems preventing hurricane victims from rebuilding their lives, evacuees and their advocates said Monday.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency confirmed that assistance would continue through Aug. 31 for about 128,000 households living in trailers, mobile homes or apartments, including about 14,000 in the Houston area. The assistance was scheduled to expire in February for victims of Hurricane Katrina and in March for those displaced by Hurricane Rita, which hit a month later.

Evacuees and leaders of groups helping them said they welcomed the extension. But it provided little comfort to Linda Edwards, 54, who said she and her nephew had been living in her van since FEMA stopped paying her rent four months ago. Hurricane Katrina forced Edwards from her home in New Orleans.

“We can’t find anybody to give us any help,” said Edwards, who said she is bipolar and gets by on about $460 a month in disability payments. “It’s cold in the van.”

The extension applies only to evacuees now receiving FEMA assistance, spokesman James McIntyre said Monday, and to any who successfully appeal earlier denials of benefits.

About 25 evacuees gathered Monday at a Stafford apartment development for senior citizens to thank FEMA for the extension while arguing that they need an additional 18 months rather than just six months.

Leaders of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, which organized the event, also called on the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to provide permanent rental assistance vouchers to elderly and disabled evacuees.

Evacuee advocates have argued for months that HUD would be a more appropriate agency to help evacuees than FEMA, whose mission is focused on short-term disaster assistance. The unprecedented destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina and the poverty and limited job skills of many of its victims demand longer-term solutions, they say.

Constant anxiety about maintaining a roof over their heads has compounded the struggle for thousands of evacuees, said Kristin Carlisle, a policy analyst for the Texas Low-Income Housing Information Service in Austin.

Cases such as Edwards’, she said, illustrate the broader problems of poverty and a shortage of housing affordable to low-income people.

Genevieve Brown, 71, a Katrina evacuee from New Orleans, said she lost her FEMA assistance four months ago. A son paid her rent for two months, Brown said, but she received an eviction notice when he no longer could help her.

Brown said her landlord has been patient while she tries to borrow money to pay her rent, but she’s unsure how much longer she can hang on. She has applied for reconstruction funds through the Road Home program intended to help families replace homes lost in the hurricanes, but hasn’t received an answer.

“I want to go back, but I lost everything,” Brown said.

People dance past a flood-damaged house during the Big Nine Social and Pleasure club’s first official parade since Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward, Louisiana, December 17, 2006.

These people have free housing now until August and they still aren’t happy? They want another year on top of that?

They can’t all be 71 years old.

This article was posted by Steve on Tuesday, January 23rd, 2007. Comments are currently closed.

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