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Published:December 22nd, 2006 13:53 EST
Sheltering and Housing Katrina Evacuees

Sheltering and Housing Katrina Evacuees

By SOP newswire

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- This afternoon, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia entered a partial stay of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia's Order in ACORN v. FEMA.  As such, FEMA is suspending any further action on reinstating the 403 shelter program pending appeal.

This stay was issued subsequent to FEMA providing Texas with Disaster Specific Guidance (DSG) earlier that morning related to implementation of a Section 403 shelter program pursuant to the U.S.  District Court Order   FEMA has rescinded this DSG and notified the state accordingly.

FEMA has already complied with the portion of the District Court's Order not impacted by the Court of Appeals' Order and reached out to every household affected by the District Court's order to more clearly identify their reason(s) for ineligibility, outline the required remedies, and allow them an additional 60 days to file an appeal with FEMA if they believe our ineligibility determination is in error.

Background

Because of the unprecedented need for housing and sheltering following hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the Federal Emergency Management Agency did something it has never done before. FEMA devised a way to meet the immediate emergency sheltering needs of tens of thousands of evacuees fleeing the aftermath of catastrophic storms.

The agency used its Section 403 Public Assistance program to provide emergency sheltering assistance, including congregate shelters, hotel rooms and, for the first time, apartments. Evacuees in 403 shelters did not need to meet the same eligibility criteria as they do for the Individuals and Household Program, the standard disaster housing program. The emergency sheltering initiative is completely different from the regular disaster housing program and it was created to meet their extraordinary and immediate needs.

Although sheltering is normally intended as a short-term measure lasting no more than 30 days, because of the unusual circumstances FEMA authorized states to enter into leases for apartments to be used as shelters and agreed to reimburse them for these costs.

These apartments were made available to evacuees for six months, from September 2005 through March 2006. The deadline was then extended to the end of May and extended again to August 31. Meanwhile an aggressive outreach program was launched to reach those who had been found ineligible for the Individuals and Households Program, under which temporary housing may be provided for up to 18 months after the disaster.

Following are some of the outreach efforts undertaken to notify evacuees that FEMA's sheltering program would end soon, and to help them navigate the necessary processes for continued assistance. Specifically, FEMA:

  • Reached out via letters, telephone calls and door-to-door canvassing to explain what evacuees needed to provide FEMA in order to be eligible for the Section 408 Individuals and Households Program assistance;
  • Coordinated extensive reviews of evacuee registration records to try to find ways that to help them transition to our temporary housing program;
  • Deployed 13 Rental Assistance Teams in July and August 2006 to provide information for evacuees; they delivered 22,000 packets of information to more than 990 apartment complexes in the greater Houston area where most of the evacuees were living;
  • Communications efforts that included widespread outreach to the news media, as well as radio and newspaper advertising;
  • Participated in nine evacuee workshops conducted in Houston, Austin and San Antonio, including several devoted to Vietnamese evacuees in Houston, providing answers about the eligibility process and information about what people could do to appeal denials or to recertify. These workshops were attended by more than 5,250 people;
  • Facilitated the development of some 30 Long-Term Committees, consisting of voluntary agencies ready to address the unmet needs of evacuees.

The intent of this outreach was to ensure that as many people as possible knew that the program under which they were being sheltered was ending and to identify those who may be eligible for temporary housing through the Section 408 Individuals and Households Program.

Criteria for IHP eligibility includes, but is not limited to, the following: the damaged dwelling must be the applicant's primary residence; the damaged dwelling must be uninhabitable as a result of the disaster; the applicant must be the head of household; at least one member of the household must be a U.S. citizen, a non-citizen national or qualified alien; and there cannot be duplication of benefit from insurance or other resources.

FEMA is proud of the assistance it was able to provide in the aftermath the catastrophic hurricanes of 2006. We are continuing to work with the host cities and voluntary agencies to assist evacuees in finding the help they need.

Source:FEMA