Katrina Evacuees Housing Assistance

FEMA is preparing to hand the Hurricane Katrina Housing Assistance program over to HUD -- the Department of Housing and Urban Development. More than 8,000 Katrina families still living in Houston will be affected by this change. Houston Public Radio's Jim Bell reports.

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This is happening because FEMA isn't equipped to provide long term housing assistance, while HUD is. The Harris County Housing Authority will manage the program for HUD, and Director Guy Rankin says along with rent, most of the families will get an array of social services designed to put them on the road to taking care of themselves.

"For the first six months the Harris County Housing Authority will pay rent for 6,700 families. Then in month 7, each family will pay $50 of their rent, and it will step up $50 every month until 18 months is over. During that time each family will receive intensive case management to get those families back on their feet."

Rankin says HUD's mission is to get families into job training, education, health care, and even job placement to help them become completely self supporting.

"The difference now between FEMA and HUD is what's going to happen. We're not just paying rent. We're actually paying rent and providing each family an individual development plan to move from sufficiency to self sufficiency."

Rankin says this program will end on March 1st 2009. Nationwide, there are about 40,000 Katrina families still dependent on federal disaster housing assistance. Houston has about eight thousand families, but only about 6,700 families will qualify for the program when HUD takes it over September 1st. Jim Bell, Houston Public Radio News.