Katrina One Year Later

It may now be a year after Hurricane Katrina, but a lot of work is still ahead not only for New Orleans, but for Texas and Houston as well. Houston Public Radio's Capella Tucker reports on the challenges that are still to come.

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It's going to take years for New Orleans to rebuild and it's likely that Katrina evacuees will impact Houston for years to come. While many questions remain, some surveys indicate that a significant number of evacuees may end up calling Texas home. Don Baylor is a workforce and economic development analyst with Center for Public Policy Priorities.

"This is a population that wants to become self-sufficient. They currently lack the tools necessary to become self-sufficient."

Two things needed are jobs and housing ... both have been challenging for some evacuees, many of whom left New Orleans thinking they would return in a couple of days. The United Way of the Gulf Coast President Anna Babin says some of the hardest recovery work is still to come. A new report classifies 25 percent of evacuees as the working poor.

"They will need help long term. And the housing, the job training, child care, in some cases basic needs. We still may need to support them with food and other assistance."

The United Way raised $8 million for Katrina relief. As they head into the yearly capital campaign, the goal has been raised to $71 million. Babin says one issue that's looming for evacuees and the city is housing.

"We have a critical housing crisis. There are about 3,000 to 7,000 households that are going to begin losing there assistance."

Katrina evacuees have to re-certify for housing assistance by the end of October. Babin says federal assistance will end in February. But there's hope in the numbers. The CPPP survey found that 64 percent of evacuees plan to own a home in Texas. Again, Don Baylor...

"That is something we hope state and local officials will take hard look at and try and devise innovative ways and programs to stimulate and to spur home ownership and asset ownership for this population and for Texans as a whole."

But the backbone to becoming self-sufficient is health. Babin, with the United Way, says they don't want mental health services to be forgotten in the continued recovery efforts.

"There's a grief factor in all of this. This anniversary hits them one way but then Christmas time again will hit them another way. A lot of what is going to prohibit people from moving forward is their state of mental health."

Capella Tucker, Houston Public Radio News.

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