Housing Hard to Find

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What a difficult two weeks it has been for Stanley White, his wife, and two sons. The New Orleans family fled the city after the storm and have been staying in a shelter in Meridian ever since.

Now the Whites are trying to get out of the shelter and into an apartment. So far, they've had no luck.

"It's terrible. There's no assistance," said Stanley White. "Everywhere you go, they're telling you the same thing. They're full."

That's certainly the case at The Mark Apartments in Meridian. Not a single apartment is open. Joyce Clodfelter has rented apartments to six storm victims, but she says she gets about ten calls and visits a day from others looking for a place to live. All she can do is say she's sorry.

"It breaks my heart. It really does, because I try to put myself in their position," Clodfelter said. "If I went to New Orleans and couldn't get housing, what it would be like for me and my family."

Stanley White knows what it's like all too well and he's not sure what he'll do next.

"That's a question that's unanswered right now. I don't know what I'm going to do. We don't know what we're going to do," said White.

Right now, all he and his family can do is head to the next apartment complex, hoping for better luck there.

There is a program in Meridian trying to help displaced families find homes. It's called The Adopt-a-Family Program and is headed up by Love City Fellowship Church.

The church would like to connect evacuees with families willing to take them in or who have houses and apartments available.

If you would like to be part of the program, as an evacuee or to adopt a family, you may call 601-553-8150.

USDA Rural Development is also seeking to fill vacant multi-family housing units with Hurricane Katrina evacuees.

The Mississippi and Alabama agencies identified 1,700 vacancies in the two states, according to Mississippi director, Nick Walters.

USDA Rural Development finances and regulates multi-family housing complexes as part of the agency's rural housing mission. The complexes can be owned by individuals, partnerships, limited partnerships, for-profit corporations, nonprofit organizations, limited equity cooperatives, Native American tribes, and public agencies.

Tenancy under normal circumstances is targeted to very low-, low-, and moderate-income families; the elderly; and persons with disabilities.

For the purposes of placing those displaced by Hurricane Katrina, tenancy requirements as relating to income are waived. Hurricane-displaced families can be placed in a vacant unit with a FEMA certification number.

USDA Rural Development has eight area offices and 26 local offices, which serve all 82 counties. A list of those offices can be found at www.rurdev.usda.gov/ms/.

Each unit is unfurnished but has a stove and a refrigerator. Each tenant placed in a vacant unit will be given a 120-day stay in the unit and their continued need will be reassessed at the end of that period.