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DATE: 9/8/2005

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

To: Houston Regional Media Outlets

Q & A

Joint Katrina Housing Task Force

September 8, 2005

What is the Housing-Choice Center?

The Housing-Choice Center is meant to be a single-stop resource for evacuees seeking assistance finding permanent housing in Houston. It 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.

Who is eligible to be serviced at the center?

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.

When will evacuees staying outside of Reliant Park be allowed to use the Housing-Choice Center?

The Joint Task Force expects that the Housing-Choice Center will be open to other evacuees next week through a mobile-processing van that will allow evacuees to register with FEMA, the Red Cross and other assistance groups. The Joint Task Force will make an announcement when it is ready to start servicing additional evacuees.

Is there a phone number people can call for more information?

The Housing-Choice Center does not yet have a phone number for the public to call.

How many people has the Housing-Choice Center placed?

As of now, it has placed 1,500 people in six privately-operated apartment complexes. It expects to place hundreds more each day.

Who is paying for the housing?

Payment for the housing varies by evacuee and includes a variety of vouchers and other forms of subsidies - such as HUD Section 8 Housing-Choice Vouchers.

How long will the evacuees stay in their new housing?

The length of each evacuee's stay will vary depending on their individual needs. It is expected that many evacuees will stay in their new homes for an extended period.

Where will the inventory of longer-term housing come from?

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.

What other social services will the Joint Task Force offer to evacuees?

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.

Should evacuees still contact FEMA and other service agencies?

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.

What is 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. 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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