Katrina Evacuees Move to the Front of Government Lines

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In the past months, the Brazos Valley Council of Governments has had its hands full trying to find housing for residents in need.

"We've reached a critical time in our housing. The funds have not been increasing but the need in our community has been," said Tom Wilkinson, Brazos Valley Council of Governments (B V COG).

With resources already stretched thin, B V COG has another challenge, Katrina evacuees. Hundreds of these survivors are sticking around to look for affordable housing. Since they're getting housing money from FEMA, the system is moving them to the front of the housing line, ahead of some local residents who've been on the waiting list for a while.

"We have a waiting list for housing assistance unfortunately in Brazos County. So people say how come their getting assistance and I'm still on the waiting list. It's completely separate dollars," said Wilkinson.

County officials have been able to speed up the housing assistance process for Katrina evacuees by relaxing some of the inspection rules, but before assistance can be obtained, evacuees must first register online for a FEMA identification number.

"Once that's done we can start working the magic and getting assistance through various programs," said Wilkinson.

Government assistance does not end with housing. B V COG is also helping Katrina evacuees look for jobs, a move that's likely to put them in competition with local job seekers.

"There's not an employer in our region that's going to say, nope this job is only for Katrina evacuees. They're looking to find good quality people it's neither a plus nor a negative to be a Katrina evacuee," said Wilkinson.

Even though Katrina evacuees are "jumping ahead," so to speak, of some local citizens also in need, B V COG says they will not abandon the community members they were put here to serve.