Five weeks after the ravages of Hurricane Katrina, about half a million people are still without permanent housing, the acting director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency said Thursday.
At a hearing of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, acting director David Paulison said that of all the challenges presented by the devastating twin hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the most difficult is housing.
"In Florida last year, we had four hurricanes and we housed more people than ever in the history of FEMA in the government, which is between 15,000 and 20,000 people," he said.
"We have to house now between 400,000 and maybe 600,000 people, so it's just incomprehensible what we have to deal with," said Paulison, who said people displaced by the storm remain holed up in a variety of situations, including mobile homes, cruise ships, hotels, motels and trailers."
Paulison said that about 60,000 people displaced by the storms remain in homeless shelters and that FEMA's goal is to relocate them by October 15.
"We want to move those people out of there. We're giving them rental assistance. We're putting them in our housing program. We're working with HUD (the federal department of Housing and Urban Development) to move as quickly as possible get these people settled somewhere," he said.
"It very well may not be back in their state where they came from. There is simply not enough housing stock in Louisiana to take all Louisianians back in there. That's not going to happen," Paulison said.
Lawmakers at the hearing agreed that housing is a top priority.
"The most significant need that FEMA must address now is housing for the tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of evacuees who need it," said Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman, vice chairman of the panel.
Paulison said that where possible they will rehabilitate the homes fled by storm victims.
"A lot of these homes can be reoccupied. A lot of them have just had some wind damage and we can either put a travel trailer there or they can move back into their home just because we've put a blue tarp on the roof," Paulison said.
"It's going to be slow, but we're going to do it methodically. We're going to make sure people are treated with respect and treated with dignity, and put them in places that's decent for them to live."
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Global Space Charter To Include Disaster Management
Bangalore (SPX) Oct 06, 2005
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