Katrina's Angels

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Katrina victims entreat help with new housing

Date: 12/12/2005

Katrina victims entreat help with new housing
FEMA's payment of hotel, motel bills to end Dec. 15; governor requests extension
By Paul T. Rosynsky, STAFF WRITER

OAKLAND Hurricane Katrina evacuees pleaded for help this week in finding new housing after the federal government said it is working to abolish a hotel room reimbursement program.
The pleas came in response to a notice from the Federal Emergency Management Agency last month that said its payments to hotels and motels for hurricane victims will end Dec. 15.

"We're not asking for a handout, we are asking for a hand," said evacuee C.C. Campbell-Rock. "It just feels like we have been thrown away."

The federal government currently houses about 450 evacuees from the late-August storm in hotel and motel rooms throughout the Bay Area. FEMA began the program soon after the hurricane hit the Gulf states but now is trying to abolish it in hopes people still living in hotels will find more permanent residences.

The half-dozen evacuees at a news conference last week, however, are still trying to find a permanent home. Most have no place to go nor any possessions left after the hurricane destroyed their homes.

During the last few months, they said, they have struggled to find work or housing.

"We don't even have money for the bus," said Josua Istre. "We don't want to be on the street for Christmas and New Year's."

Though FEMA declared Dec. 15 as the deadline for the hotel program, the agency has given California a chance to extend it until Jan. 7.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, however, said the state needs even longer to transfer evacuees from hotels to permanent housing. Schwarzenegger sent a letter Friday to FEMA asking for an extension of the deadline to the end of February.

The city of Oakland is trying to help. In October the City Council agreed to spend

$250,000 to provide temporary rental assistance to 10 families relocated to Oakland after the hurricane. It also has adopted a temporary exception to the rent ordinance which will allow landlords to lower rents to evacuees.

It is unclear when the federal government will grant the state's request for an extension.

"All I have are the clothes on my back," said Danna Harper, a New Orleans resident displaced by the storm. "Every time I ask for help, they tell me my claim is in the process of being processed