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Hurricane Evacuees Moving Out Into New Homes

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DATE: 9/10/2005

Hurricane Evacuees Moving Out into New Homes

To: Houston Regional Media Outlets

R E L I A N T C E N T E R

J I C

Joint Information Center

Hurricane Evacuees Moving Out into New Homes

HOUSTON, TX - Local, state, and federal agencies worked together Saturday on helping the remaining 7,372 sheltered Hurricane Katrina survivors "get their lives restored as best as possible."

"We are moving about 1,300 people a day into alternative housing," said LT Joe Leonard, area commander overseeing operations at the Reliant Astrodome, Reliant Center, Reliant Arena, and George R. Brown Convention Center. "If that pace continues, I foresee no problem completing our relocation program by September 17th."

The Houston area has assisted about 30,000 people in what Harris County Judge Robert Eckels said will be the "fastest ramp up and fastest ramp down in U.S. history."

The American Red Cross continues to provide on-site financial assistance to residents at Reliant Park and the Brown Convention Center. Evacuees who are not residents at Reliant Park may obtain assistance off-site at St. Agnus Baptist Church, 3730 South Acres Dr. in Houston.

Evacuees living off-site can register for FEMA assistance by calling (800) 621-3362 or on-line at http://www.FEMA.gov. Those eligible for FEMA assistance will receive either a direct deposit or a check by mail.

The enormous number of recipients was taxing on computer and phone systems, officials said, which necessitated the move of services to the church for evacuees not residing at Reliant Park.

The challenge for emergency management officials now is determining how to assist those who are in the gap - people who came to shelters with limited identification and no way to cash a check, for example.

"Our challenge is to get a better sense of how many of these people there are and how we can fill their needs," said Ed Conley, FEMA representative at the Houston shelters. "We want to combine efforts to expedite documentation to address their immediate needs. Our goal is to get that figured out today."

So far, more than 350,000 families have applied for FEMA assistance. FEMA has issued about $650 million in checks or direct deposits nationally since the disaster.

Other announcements Saturday included:

. Continental Airlines is offering free transportation for any hurricane survivor at the Houston shelters to travel anywhere in the 48 contiguous United States in order to live with family or friends.

. More than 8,800 patient visits have been conducted by volunteer medical professionals, according to Dr. Herminia Palacio, executive director of the Harris County Public Health and Environmental Services. She said 13,000 prescriptions have been filled for shelter residents thus far.

. Officers with the Houston Police Department and Harris County Sheriff's office reported only nine arrests from 6 a.m. Friday through 6 a.m. Saturday, most for minor offenses. The number of daily arrests has averaged eight to 10, law enforcement officials said. Less than 100 weapons have been confiscated, and many of those were voluntarily brought to police by people who said they had armed themselves for personal safety while in the Superdome in New Orleans.

. A wellness clinic for pets of people affected by Hurricane Katrina will be held Monday, 10 a.m.-2 p.m in the parking lot near Petsmart, 8230 Kirby Dr. Additional pet wellness clinics will be conducted later. About 700 animals were evacuated to Houston, according to Dr. Dawn Blackmar, division director for Harris County Public Health and Environmental Services.

. More than 45,000 volunteers have registered at the four Red Cross shelters in Houston since the emergency operation began on September 1st.

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