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Washington, D.C. – Today, the day before the president's State of the Union address to the nation, many citizens displaced by hurricanes Katrina and Rita are still in a state of emergency.
It was announced on Friday that the president has decided to extend temporary housing assistance for evacuees for an additional six months beyond the February 28 deadline. This was welcome news for the approximately 128,000 households (or about 384,000 people) still living in trailers, mobile homes, or rental units funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
However, residents and housing advocates call for a longer-term solution to the critical housing needs after the six months are up.
Residents and their supporters will go forward with the planned “Day of Action” on the Gulf Coast today, coordinated by the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC), in order to focus a spotlight on the long-term housing needs.
NLIHC President Sheila Crowley said, "We are pleased that the president has decided to extend disaster housing assistance for another six months beyond the standard 18 months of FEMA aid. But we will continue to work toward a long-term solution. There was nothing standard about hurricane Katrina. The extent of damage, the numbers of people who were and remain displaced, and the slow pace of recovery are all extraordinary. Until low-income people who lost their homes have new homes to go home to, they must be able to rely on the temporary housing assistance from the federal government."
As part of the "Day of Action," housing and poverty advocates, displaced residents, local officials, and others will hold events today and this week throughout the Gulf Coast. Actions are planned in New Orleans, La.; Austin, Dallas, and Houston, Tex.; Biloxi and Jackson, Miss; Mobile, Ala.; Little Rock, Ark; and Atlanta, Ga.
ACORN chapters are staging press conferences today in New Orleans, Houston, Dallas, Little Rock, and Jackson. (ACORN also held an event last week in Atlanta.)
In New Orleans today, a 1:30 p.m. press conference will be held at the local ACORN office at 1024 Elysian Fields Ave. For more information, call Tanya Harris at 504-427-0687.
In Houston today, ACORN will hold an 11 a.m. rally and press conference with Congressman Al Green at Meadows Place Senior Village Apartments, home to many hurricane survivors. For more information, contact the Houston ACORN chapter at 713-868-7015.
In Jackson today, ACORN and the Katrina Survivors Association will hold an 11 a.m. press conference at the home of a hurricane survivor at 3352 Nashville St. For more information, contact Sonya Murphy at 601-454-1165.
In Biloxi today, the Steps Coalition will hold a 9:30 a.m. prayer service and press conference at 125 Kuhn St., the site of several FEMA trailers next to slabs that are all that remain of homes. For more information, contact Natalie Presley at 228-990-2904.
In Mobile today, a 2 p.m. press conference will feature Mobile County Commissioner Mike Dean, whose jurisdiction includes the areas most severely destroyed by the storm, and a representative from Alabama Governor Bob Riley’s office. Sponsored by Alabama Appleseed Center for Law & Justice, Volunteer Mobile and Volunteers of America, Southeast, the event will be held at the Mobile County Government Building. For more information, contact Craig H. Baab, Alabama Appleseed, at 334-233-7385.
Oxfam America is circulating a petition urging FEMA to extend its housing assistance program for one year. The petition is available online.
Texas Low Income Housing Information Service in Austin will issue a press statement today from leading community leaders. For more information, contact Kristin Carlisle, Development director/Policy analyst, at 512-477-8910, ext. 4.