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Choice Center Moves People Out Of Astrodome

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DATE: 9/8/2005

Joint Katrina Housing Task Force Opens Housing-Choice Center; Starts Placing Katrina Victims In Houston Area

To: Houston Regional Media Outlets

September 8, 2005 (HOUSTON) - Beginning yesterday, the newly-formed Joint Katrina Housing Task Force began operating a Housing-Choice Center to send Hurricane Katrina evacuees from areas within Reliant Park to longer-term housing.

The Housing-Choice Center is located in the Pavilion-area of the Reliant Arena. There, Katrina survivors will be offered different housing options and receive additional instructions on how they will be placed in their new longer-term homes.

The Housing-Choice Center is currently assisting only evacuees staying inside of Reliant Park. To provide assistance to these evacuees in an orderly manner, Joint Task Force workers are canvassing the Astrodome and Reliant Center and then sending eligible people to the Housing-Choice Center for assistance. This is a very important step since Joint Task Force officials want to ensure that evacuees are offered the right form of longer-term housing for their specific needs, and that they are located in an area that makes sense as an extended solution. There is currently no walk-up service at the Center.

As of now, the Joint Task Force has placed 1,500 people in six privately-operated apartment complexes. Payment for this housing varies by evacuee and includes a variety of vouchers and other forms of subsidies - such as HUD Section 8 Housing-Choice Vouchers. The length of each evacuee's stay will vary depending on their individual needs. It is anticipated that many evacuees will stay in their new homes for an extended period.

The Joint Task Force expects that the Housing-Choice Center will be open to other evacuees (i.e., those outside of Reliant Park) next week through a mobile-processing van that will allow evacuees to register with FEMA, the Red Cross and other assistance groups. Currently, however, the center is only processing evacuees specifically sent there by canvassers from the Joint Task Force, which will make an announcement when it is ready to start servicing additional evacuees. There is currently no public phone number to contact the Housing-Choice Center.

Evacuees housed outside of Reliant Park, as well as those in the George R. Brown Convention Center, are encouraged to continue contacting FEMA and other service agencies while the Housing-Choice Center expands its operations.

To ensure a supply of modern, clean and comfortable housing, the Joint Task Force is currently working with more than 200 Houston and surrounding-area apartment operators and developers to identify open apartments for evacuees -- as well as other housing options through FEMA.

In addition, the Joint Task Force is working with corporate partners to secure the following items for Katrina evacuees once they are placed in their new longer-term homes: mattresses, furniture, bedding, toiletries and cookware. In addition, it is arranging for Red Cross visits and food-bank deliveries to all apartment complexes agreeing to assist Katrina survivors. The Joint Task Force has also arranged for the Texas Work Force Commission to coordinate job training for evacuees at all apartment complexes that have taken in more than 100 Katrina survivors.

About The Joint Katrina Housing Task Force

The Joint Katrina Housing Task Force is composed of officials from several Houston regional-housing authorities, as well as officials from FEMA, HUD and the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs. Local public-safety authorities and non-profit entities are also assisting the Joint Task Force. As of now, it has placed 1,500 people into new longer-term housing - including 600 seniors. It hopes to place several hundred Katrina survivors in new homes each day. Guy Rankin from the Harris County Housing Authority is serving as the director of the Joint Task Force. Buddy Grantham is managing the Housing-Choice Center's operations. Grantham is a retired military officer with more than 20 years experience managing logistics for housing operations. John Walsh, Mayor White's deputy chief of staff for housing, is also helping lead the effort by identifying available housing and coordinating contracting processes.

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