Department of Homeless Services (DHS) Commissioner Linda Gibbs, Office of Emergency Management (OEM) Commissioner Joseph Bruno, and Housing and Preservation Development (HPD) Commissioner Shaun Donovan today unveiled the second phase of the City's efforts to assist New York City-based Hurricane Katrina evacuees in the wake of the decision by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to stop paying for hotels as of December 1, 2005. The City strategy includes launching special case management teams to help evacuees access available federal benefits and quickly move from hotel rooms to permanent housing, conducting housing fairs, and aggressively courting local building owners to identify available apartments. In addition, the city will fund a one-month extension of hotel stays for those evacuees actively working to secure permanent housing.
"Today our efforts are focused on helping evacuees find permanent housing, access available benefits, and rebuild their lives," stated DHS Commissioner Linda Gibbs. "New York City is a place of great opportunity. We will work to ensure those evacuees who want to make this their home get our full support to access affordable housing and employment opportunities."
Today's announcement was made after the first of two city-sponsored housing fairs, where nearly 50 households met with local building owners. A second housing fair will take place on Tuesday, November 29. At these housing fairs, evacuees have the opportunity to learn about and apply for rent stabilized privately-owned rental housing in the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Manhattan. HPD and non-profit partners are providing on-site housing counselors to review each family's housing application and assess their housing needs and link them to building owners with apartments matching their needs. Housing needs are based on household size and geographic preferences. Most building owners are bringing photos of their buildings and supply information about their neighborhoods. In addition, HPD is providing the families with maps to show the neighborhood location and proximity to public transportation. If there is a potential match, the family will schedule an appointment to visit the apartment. Once a family accepts an apartment:
- The building owner provides the family with a lease and they are required to pay a security deposit and first month's rent. Some may also require the last month's rent.
- Families can use FEMA housing assistance funds for the rent.
- The families can move into their apartment on the first day of the lease.
HPD Commissioner Shaun Donovan said, "The City wants the families who've been forced into temporary housing by Hurricane Katrina to have permanent homes. We thank the not-for-profit and for-profit sponsors who are making apartments in their buildings available to families displaced by Katrina."
The initiatives announced today build on the first phase of the City's efforts to help Hurricane Katrina evacuees. These have included opening the Disaster Assistance Service Center (DASC), which has had representatives from private nonprofit providers and nearly two dozen local, state, and federal agencies to assist evacuees. During its eight weeks in existence, DASC has served 2,061 Hurricane Katrina evacuees. As of yesterday, 327 households consisting of 487 individuals remained in FEMA-funded hotels in New York City.
In addition, a number of faith-based and community organizations and leaders, advocacy groups, and service providers have been volunteering time, resources, and services to evacuees in hotels. These include the Reverend James Pullings and the Leviticus Church of God in Christ, ACORN, HELP USA, Salvation Army, and the Bowery Residence Committee, among many others.
OEM Commissioner Joseph Bruno said, "First phase efforts included stabilizing evacuees in temporary accommodations and helping them register for emergency federal, state, and local benefits. There's been extraordinary coordination at the local level - and that will need to continue to help these evacuees find a new home in such short order."
DHS last week identified 6 non-profit organizations to provide intensive case management services to evacuees in FEMA-funded hotels. The non-profit organizations are the Bowery Residents' Committee, HELP USA, Palladia, Church Avenue Merchants Block Association, Salvation Army, and Builders For Family and Youth.
These special case management teams are working to expedite re-housing efforts and help evacuees secure all available benefits, including FEMA rental assistance (not to exceed 18 months from the declaration date or $26,200 maximum allowance) and travel assistance within the continental United States (to return to an undamaged home, travel to an available housing resource, or reunite with separated family members). Additional efforts by DHS case managers include:
- Identifying permanent housing resources anywhere within the United States.
- Arranging travel and transportation from NYC to the new re-housing location
- Referrals to employment resources, educational and/or job training resources
- Referrals for Small Business Administration loans for real and personal property
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