Posted Feb. 8, 2006 – Packing everything they own in suitcases and plastic bags, more than 4,500 victims of Hurricane Katrina, who had been staying in hotels across the country, were evicted from their hotel rooms Tuesday.
From the moment that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) cut off payments for the rooms, evacuees were ordered to give up their keys, The Associated Press reported.
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Evacuees Fail to Request Extensions
Many of the evacuees, who left the Crowne Plaza hotel in New Orleans Tuesday, told reporters that they had found other housing, but several now say they are now homeless, AP reported.
"All I got is a couple pairs of pants and some shirts. The pressure is on," said Jonathan Gautier, 26, one of the six, who was booted from the hotel.
FEMA officials told BET.com Wednesday that they had done everything imaginable to give evacuees a chance to request extensions, but many failed to do so.
"We have assisted more than 760,000 families," said FEMA spokeswoman Barbara Ellis, noting that many of those have since been situated in long-term housing.
She said that for victims of Hurricane Katrina alone, about 1.8 million individuals applied for assistance; 1.4 million of those have been approved. For victims of Hurricane Rita, 842,529 applied, and 423,346 were approved.
Evictions Draw Protests
FEMA has spent $5.1 billion toward housing hurricane victims, $529 million of which has gone to the pay for temporary housing in hotels, Ellis said. Participating hotels, which are part of the Corporate Lodging program, invoice FEMA for the payments; payment schedules vary, Ellis said.
"We've bent over backward to reach out," FEMA spokesman Butch Kinerney said. "We've gone door-to-door to all of the 25,000 hotel rooms no fewer than six times. And there are individuals who have refused to come to the door, refused to answer. There are people who have run when they saw us coming; those are the ones that are now moving on."
The occupants of at least 20,000 hotel rooms were given extensions by FEMA until Feb. 13, and possibly until March 1. FEMA says that most evacuees evicted Tuesday have made living arrangements.
Ellis notes that FEMA is dealing with victims one-on-one. If individuals need to stay beyond the next deadline, she said, FEMA may be able to extend their stay. "Our deadline is not a hard deadline, but we will determine that on a case-by-case basis."
Meanwhile, the evictions have drawn protests in New York and Oakland, California, where demonstrators carried signs saying, "Evict FEMA."
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