Friday, November 18, 2005

Hurricane survivors face holiday eviction

Katrina victims voice frustration with FEMA housing decision

Bureaucracy seems to be creating a new tide of trouble for hurricane victims. With this week's announcement that FEMA will soon stop paying hotel bills for Katrina survivors, a housing crunch may be on the horizon.

"We feel like we are citizens of the United States who are nearly forgotten," Democratic Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco said yesterday. "It is a very frustrating thing. People are weary. They want to move on ... It's going to take us a while. And we still need help from Washington."

Federal and state officials are trying to ease fears that thousands of Louisiana hurricane families in Texas would be left homeless again after Dec. 1 when FEMA has said it will stop paying their hotel and motel bills.

"We are finding longer-term housing for all evacuees," said Russ Knocke, spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security. "That's really a top priority, working with families to help them find some long-term housing options.

"Our top priority is meeting the needs of evacuees, making sure they receive the benefits and assistance for which they're eligible. FEMA assistance is going to continue after Dec. 1 for evacuees," Knocke added.

Texas is pushing FEMA to extend the aid deadline beyond Dec. 1. Houston Mayor Bill White, in an angry letter to Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, said the deadline was unreasonable given the huge numbers of evacuees still in hotels. He also said that the requirement that evacuees be moved to apartments with three-month leases a rare find was never part of the city's negotiations with the federal government.

White also criticizes FEMA for its decision to close down a housing voucher program for Katrina survivors -- launched just three weeks ago -- for anyone who hasn't signed a lease by Dec 1. FEMA now says the vouchers will be available for three months, not 12 months as originally planned.

Katrina families living in New York will not be put out in the cold if FEMA goes ahead with a plan to cut off hotel payments on Dec. 1, according to city officials. The city has unveiled plans to fund a one-month extension of hotel stays for evacuees actively looking for permanent housing, while helping them move into apartments.

Still, many hurricane victims fear they will soon be out on the streets. More from the Fort Worth Star-Telegraph and the San Jose Mercury News.

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Anonymous said...

What has happened to America and most importantly to Americans? With this new move from FEMA, tossing fellow hardworking American families into the streets of these here United States of America --in the cold, ice, sleet, snow or whatever -- is outrageous! How can this happen to 53,000 American families, IN AMERICA?
I am displaced from Louisiana and am fortunate to have received help from my family and friends - very little help and very late from FEMA.
I just heard on the news this morning that additional funds were made available for earthquake victums in whatever country. Now I am not unsympathetic to others but shouldn't charity begin at home? Right here in this country, Americans are facing devastations from hurricanes, tornados, fires, and; not to mention, those already hungry and homeless or without access to medical treatment.
We are so quick to aid other countries and foreigners entering this country. We have to be the "big dog" as compared to other countries. How sad it is that what is happening right here at home seems so unimportant to our public officials and Washington DC. If the cries of the people of the U.S. can not be heard in Washington, why aren't our elected officials leading the charge to direct needed resources to take care of Americans in AMERICA FIRST!

I really feel for my fellow Louisianians and all displaced Americans. I pray that God will bring a blessed, peaceful, change to their lives real soon.

Cynthia said...

I read an article once that America always pledges, but never fully follow through on those pledges. Therefore, the poor everywhere is not a priority for this administration. This is unfortunate for all.

Deb S. said...

To Anonymous:

I hope you come back and keep us posted on how you are doing. It is so important to hear first-hand accounts from hurricane survivors.

Cynthia: What you say may very well be true. I think it's important for government and private citizens to play an active role in assisting the poor.

Thank you both for stopping by.