The city of Houston is no longer issuing apartment vouchers to Katrina evacuees, but they are still working on getting furniture to the new neighbors. Even as that furniture is being set up, evacuees don’t know how long the leases will be honored.
21 year old Dumari Boutte packed a change of clothes and headed for Houston before Katrina made landfall. When it became clear, he would not be heading back to New Orleans, Boutte found an apartment, registered for FEMA assistance and enrolled as a full time student at the University of Houston. He’s one of four-hundred people getting apartment furniture.
“I’m pretty open minded about where things go because you know I’m just happy I have furniture here now.”
For the first couple of months, Boutte only had an air mattress. Other members of his family are scattered throughout north Houston.
“My brother had recently moved out here. So, that was, I guess, a blessing in disguise. What little did we know. Yeah, plus I did stay with some friends. It was just crazy, us scattered about for a little while.”
Even though Boutte’s one-bedroom apartment is now furnished, he doesn’t know how long the rent will be paid by FEMA through the city of Houston. FEMA wants to transfer the evacuees from one assistance program to another.
“I’ve heard about it but I’m not too clear on the details about it. FEMA supposed to, no, Houston is supposed to pay until March. But after that it’s kind of up in the air which still isn’t clear. Some details are getting worked out. I heard about that but I’m not really to sure about which way to go or what to believe really, so.”
The city of Houston is still pressing FEMA to honor the original 12 month leases instead of cutting them off on March first. Hurricane Housing Task Force Spokesperson Cindy Gabriel says they are still waiting for an answer from FEMA. In the meantime, she says the furniture program is back up and running with funds from FEMA.
“Started this program to distribute 400 units of furniture a day until we reach a maximum of 14,000 units and then we’re going to drop off to 200 units a day until we feel our mission is complete.”
Gabriel says any one in a city voucher apartment with a FEMA number qualifies for the furniture assistance. The number is 713-715-4100.