Evacuees Remain Without Permanent Homes

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Abdul Lala owns several hotels in Mississippi and Alabama. He says the Dec. 1 deadline set by FEMA for hurricane evacuees to leave their hotels or pick up the tab themselves will be devastating to many people.

"We have evacuees who have been with us ever since the hurricane started, so we do have some who've been here, I would say, for six weeks or more," said Lala. "When you really talk with them, you know, some of their houses were gone. They did not have any place to live, you know."

For hurricane evacuees staying in hotels in Mississippi and Louisiana, however, there is some good news. According to the Associated Press, FEMA will continue to cover hotel costs in the two states through Jan. 7, 2006.

This extension comes as a relief to the evacuees in our area still staying in hotels. Thirty-three evacuees from Hurricane Katrina still call Budget 8 home.

Rosemary Cooley is one of these evacuees. She lost her home in New Orleans and evacuated to Meridian with her mother and stepfather. Cooley said she has tried to find more permanent housing, but has been told again and again that apartments are not available.

"Meridian is not a big town and you know the apartments that they have is already filled up," said Cooley. "So they put you on a waiting list and, you know, they contact you as soon as they come available."

For now, Cooley is happy to have a place to stay and a warm bed to come home to.

Gov. Haley Barbour also expressed concern on Wednesday about FEMA's policy:

"I am concerned about the policy FEMA has implemented regarding hotel and motel rooms. Although record numbers of Mississippians have been provided temporary housing units, the housing shortage remains a serious problem for displaced Katrina victims. Therefore, I have asked for an extension of the period in which FEMA will reimburse displaced Mississippians living in hotels or motels. I have also requested FEMA to reconsider the establishment of this arbitrary deadline and work with the state to set a more realistic policy which considers the best interests of our citizens."