Hardcore Housing Limbo

FEMA's emergency rent assistance program for last year's hurricane evacuees comes to an end

Katrina evacuees Christine and Angel Braud
Katrina evacuees Christine and Angel Braud (Photo By Jana Birchum)

New Orleans natives Christine Braud, her 6-year-old daughter Angel, and her mother Carolyn make up one of about 600 local hurricane-evacuee households slated Tuesday to lose the rental assistance they've been getting for several months now from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Come Aug. 1, 593 families will stop receiving federal emergency housing funds via the city of Austin's Neighborhood Housing and Community Development Office. They're among thousands of evacuees nationwide FEMA has deemed ineligible for further rent help.

"I don't know what I'm gonna do," said Braud, who claims she applied in late June for FEMA's Individual Assistance Program, which evacuees all over the country have been transitioning to in order to continue receiving rental assistance. As of press time Wednesday, she had not heard from FEMA whether she was eligible or ineligible for individual assistance.

"We need to get a sense of exactly what happens next," NHCD Director Paul Hilgers said. "Every family has their own unique story and their own unique needs." Although the Austin-Travis Co. Health and Human Services Department will stop assessing evacuees' cases with the end of the emergency assistance program, Hilgers noted that social service providers from various local organizations have been coordinating and collaborating to fill any case-assessment void.

Sam Woollard, associate director of the Community Action Network, a public-private collaboration of local organizations focused on community issues, said in an e-mail that area nonprofits "are conducting workshops at apartments to ensure that evacuees are completing their paperwork correctly – the low literacy level of some evacuees has resulted in them not completing all the paperwork even though they are eligible for on-going assistance." Woollard also noted that local nonprofits are seeing "an increase in the numbers of evacuees who are seeking assistance, many for the first time. … There is an increasing number of evacuees reporting that they are receiving eviction notices."

Meanwhile, FEMA has been on a PR tear this week, announcing, among other things, that the agency is working with the Texas Apartment Association and landlords "to reach Hurricane Rita and Hurricane Katrina evacuees who have not recertified for continued rental assistance."

Braud said she has enough cash to cover her three-bedroom Southeast Austin apartment's $805 rent for August, but she's uncertain beyond that. She said her landlord plans on holding a meeting with her complex's remaining evacuee tenants, but that she isn't aware of a date having been set. "You just don't know on a daily basis whether you're going to get that eviction notice," Braud said.


For more on local hurricane evacuees' housing limbo, see "FEMA's Floodtide," Feb. 24.

  • More of the Story

  • Naked City

    Headlines and happenings from Austin and beyond

    Finley Murder Update

    Jury indicts Karen Bunton and William "Tony" Holmes for capital murder in death of Bunton's niece
  • Austin Reaches Biodiesel Big Leagues

    New local partnership makes Austin biodiesel pump headquarters

    WilCo Shooting

    What took sheriff's office so long to release info on incident?

    More Cantu Controversy

    Unfair bias questions hit Bexar Co. District Attorney's Office in wake of publication of comments by DA investigators conducting an inquiry into possible wrongful conviction and execution of Ruben Cantu

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle