Evacuees from hurricanes Katrina and Rita living in Texas now have another way to help themselves move toward recovery through the Housing, Employment, Location, and Placement (HELP) Program, which is available from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the State of Texas and city housing authorities. Local and private agencies also have joined the partnership.
The HELP Program was designed to smooth out the process for relocating evacuees from hotels and shelters into more adequate housing by Dec. 15 through an efficient and coordinated delivery system. With assistance from government, state and local resources, evacuees will receive help in finding jobs, education, and addressing special needs and other resources needed to foster their recovery.
“We are working aggressively to get people relocated from hotels to more adequate long-term housing by Dec. 15,” FEMA Federal Coordinating Officer Sandy Coachman said. “We are calling on everyone in the State of Texas in our coordinated effort to find more permanent housing for the Katrina evacuees and to ensure they continue to be supported in every way in this move to independence.”
Strike Team members are visiting evacuees in hotels in Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth, San Antonio, Austin, and Beaumont. The teams include FEMA Community Relations outreach staff and voluntary agency representatives who will sit down with evacuees one-on-one to help fill out long-term housing surveys and return the forms for further processing.
Evacuees who have registered with FEMA may be eligible for FEMA’s rental assistance program, which covers certain households displaced by Rita or Katrina who were formerly homeowners or renters in the impacted areas. The team members will assist evacuees in updating their FEMA registration information and register those who have not yet applied.
The survey information will be used to find resources to meet special needs of evacuees. People who want to return to Louisiana, Alabama, or Mississippi should be able to do so through this program and those who want to stay in Texas will receive assistance getting settled.
A total of 16,048 hotel rooms are currently occupied by more than 40,000 hurricane Katrina and Rita evacuees. The total is down from a high of 195,000 evacuees staying in 82,000 hotel rooms in early October. The 80 percent of the evacuees who have moved out of hotels have moved into other forms of housing, including some 43,000 apartments funded by the FEMA Public Assistance program, or apartments paid by individuals who have received FEMA rental assistance, homeowner’s insurance Additional Living Expenses, or the evacuees themselves if they did not have damage and did not need assistance. In addition, some of these evacuees returned home, moved in with family and friends, or to other states.
A breakdown of the 16,048 hotel rooms presently occupied by evacuees in Texas as of Nov. 21 is as follows, with the majority in the following counties: Harris, 7,229; Dallas, 2,326; Bexar, 1,019; Tarrant, 937; Galveston, 879; and Travis, 511.
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