Wednesday, November 14, 2007

"Katrina evacuees may be struggling after funding runs out"

Did you know there are at least a couple thousand people displaced by Hurricane Katrina two years ago that are still in San Antonio and living off the taxpayers?

I didn't, until KENS-TV informed me.

San Antonio is facing the possibility of a huge increase in the number of homeless people on the streets.

An estimated 800 families — all Hurricane Katrina evacuees — are still on assistance here. Now that funding is running out fast, and some are worried they'll have no roof over their head.


"There are some clients who are living in apartment complexes where they won't accept the HUD, so those clients have to find a new living place," said Josee Battle, director of evacuee services for Catholic Charities.

The charity is one of only three agencies in San Antonio still providing help to Katrina evacuees. About 800 households still need assistance, and in March, that funding will end.

"I think that we're going to have a lot of clients that will be homeless, which is a sad reality," Battle said.

Potentially, that could mean an additional 2,000 to 3,000 people living on the streets of San Antonio.

I knew there were a lot of evacuees still living in town, but I didn't realize so many had not made the transition to independent living.


AlanDP said...

At my previous job I had to work at one of those apartment complexes a couple of times. It was not pleasant. People just standing around, leaning against the walls, staring at nothing. Nobody doing anything, not talking, playing games, fighting, or anything. Just standing and staring. Gave me the creeps.

Dave said...

The behavior you witnessed pretty much made them feel at home. Please don't take that as a negative against people from NOLA in general, nor should you think that I am assigning that behavior to any particular race or ethnicity.

The truth is though, people that are still displaced after all this time are probably comfortable doing exactly what you witnessed:

Nothing at all.

Anonymous said...

My husband and I are from New Orleans, but we arrived here on our own, by choice, two months after Katrina. Or, I should say, I arrived. My husband would go back to New Orleans to his job until he found a good position here in San Antonio. (It took him a year to really get here.)

I arrived November 5th of 2005; we had lived in Lafayette,LA for two months - from the night BEFORE KATRINA to early November 2005. (My husband went to work for his bank where he had been employed for over 13 years before Katrina. He was able to work in Lafayette, LA at 1pm on Monday, the day after the storm hit. Months later, he would be recognized for his dedication.)

We are not the evcacuees who get the most attention.

We work and we contribute to our new community of San Antonio just as we did in suburban New Orleans.

But, we, too still struggle. The reason is that Katrina affected middle class people, too. Yes, we had some resources, but not enough to sustain us for the 6 months that it took me to begin working, and the 12 months that we had to maintain separate households. Of course, that is not quite accurate. My husband actually lived with a neigbhor - after she got back in her house in March 2006. But, before that, he lived first, for 10 days in a hotel that had few services, but cost $100 per night - more with tax... until a friend who had a dry house offered that he could stay there. That lasted about 2 months; for a while, he crashed on people's couches - fun when your are twenty - not fun when you are 40 plus! Then, our neighbor, whom we had taken with us to Lafayette, was able to return to her home. (She had gone to be with family in Dallas when it became obvious that we would not be returning anytime soon.) So, my husband went to live in her guest room for the next nine months - all the while he retained his banking job. During this time, he travelled to San Antonio 3X for interviews, and came here 5X for his elderly dad's surgeries in 2006.

As you can imagine, all of this travel was not free. My husband, who prefers to fly, even took the Greyhound bus a few times just to save money.

I fouund free lance work in San Antonio - doing the same thing that I had done in New Orleans. I am a former classroom teacher turned tutor, and now, two years post Katrina, I am just getting to the point where I am completely booked. And, I will say this. From the beginning, all of my tutoring clients and their parents have been wonderful!

So, what is wrong? Why do all of the "Katrina peopl"e still need help? Well, some, I am sure are just standing around outside doing nothing, but that does not describe me or my nephew (who graduated from the University of New Orleans in May 2005 and now has a career position here) or my in- laws - all of whom decided to relocate here.

We ALL work. But, Katrina did take the stuffings out of some of us.

Here, I will just speak for my husband and myself. When I moved here, I was lucky. After a month or so on a relative's couch - NO FUN AT ALL - even with people that you really love and who love you - I was lucky to find a HUD home. Every day that I live here, I am grateful to be in a nice home in a great neighborhood! It is much like the neighborhood that I left behind in a suburb of New Orleans, but it is much bigger.

We would love to buy our home, but we emptied out our savings account and our 401K to stay afloat while living separately, and we are told that FHA (the loan that offers the best "deal" for evacuees likes to see "reserves." Of course, we could indeed quality if my hubby had two years on the job... Well, this man worked in the same industry for 13 years, but had to go into another line of work to be able to move here. We applied for our loan to buy our home right after he secured his new job; we didn't dare do this before he found a job here!

But, the loan officer said, "Your husband just changed jobs and he is the major breadwinner. FHA might consider 1 year on the job, but not one month. I protested, "But, this is supposed to be a "disaster" mortgage. We are from Katrina."

His reply was one I will never forget, "Katrina," he said, was a over a year ago!"

I remember choking back tears. Should my husband have been irresponsible and just moved here on a wing and a prayer?

And, I was told that MY income would help, but not be treated as a "real job" even though I have been in the same field for several years. I was told that my income would be averaged - 2005 and 2006. Wait a minute... I did not have an opportuntiy to work during the fall of 2005. And, in 2006, I was just beginning my little business here in San Antonio...

And, aside from our jobs, we have had to buy so many things that everyone else just replaces every few years. We have had to buy new bedding, towels, kitchen stuff, (including replacing all of our spices - surprisingly expensive!) We JUST bought a lawnmower; in the past year or so, we have bought shovels, gardeing tools, first aid supplies, a gazebo covering for our patio, new sewing supplies and manicure scissors, a new computer, rugs, welcome mats, new holiday decorations, new shelves, used furniture, office supplies, small appliances, clothing, outdoor furniture, an iron and ironing board, house paint, and the list goes on. Did I tell you that we bought a new king size bed? All of these things, large and small, cost bucks.

And, when we wnet for mortgage counseling, we were told NOT to buy any new vehicles. Well, keeping our Katrina cars running has cost us megabucks!

The list, like the beat, goes on and on... If anyone out there wants a "Katrina Survivor" to speak at your next civic meeting, PTA or other public venue, please shoot me an email.. And, please remember not to judge a man, woman or child until you have walked a mile or 10 - in their moccasins...

As for us, we plan on trying to buy this home again - maybe in January... and hope that the program does not "expire" before we do....:-D

If anyone would like more detail, please let me know. Or, if you have any ideas, let me know this as well.

I thank you for reading this!


Albatross said...


Thanks for your story. It's actually heartening to hear from Katrina survivors like you who are trying to get back on your own feet. No doubt, you've had a hard time of it, but you are taking responsibility for yourselves, and I commend you for it.

I did not mean to denigrate you in my post. I can understand a few people might find themselves in a position extraordinary enough that they face the possibility of being homeless once the government relief money is cut off, even two years after the disaster. But 2,000 or 3,000 people? That's a lot, and that's what I found to be strange.

Dave said...

Yea, me too.

I did send an e-mail to Fran and hope to hear from her.

I wish her and her husband much success.