For three days after Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast, Steven Portis slept on a neighbor's roof before he was rescued by a boat. Since that time, he has been staying in Meridian hotels. And he's not alone.
More than 60 hotel rooms in Meridian are still occupied by hurricane evacuees. That will end soon. Monday was the deadline to contact FEMA for an extension to stay in hotels and have FEMA pay for it.
"If they have authorization code after February 7, they want to stay, they can stay," said Jitendra Upadhoai, manager of the Super 8 in Meridian. "Otherwise, they have to pay from their own pocket."
The authorization code will allow evacuees to stay through at least February 13. Each evacuee's request will be handled on a case-by-case basis.
"Unless they review my case and maybe they'll extend it to the 27th or March 1st. So, they are going to do case-by-case," Portis said.
Portis says that he now has a job and is looking for an apartment. He has decided to make Meridian his permanent home. He is trying to get into the new apartments being built on 10th Avenue. But, he says that he is not sure if they will be open before FEMA stops paying his hotel bill. If not, he says he will have to come up with another plan.
"I'll have to find somewhere to go. That's why I've been looking. Just have to wait and see what comes up. I'm not really worried. The Lord, he makes a way for everyone," said Portis.
Until then, all Portis can do is wait to see how long FEMA will continue to pay his hotel bill.
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