Saturday, September 15, 2012
The wrath of Hurricane Isaac threatened the safety, health, and welfare of St. John the Baptist Parish residents along with private property and public facilities. This prompted Parish President Natalie Robottom to sign an Executive Order allowing for temporary housing for family members, employees, reconstruction and disaster relief workers to facilitate rebuilding efforts. For specific information regarding temporary housing, please contact the Planning and Zoning Office at 985-651-5565.
The signing of this Executive Order is critical to St. John Parish's recovery, as there is little to no capacity within the parish to house residents. The Parish President has also requested and is awaiting final approval from FEMA to provide HUD Manufactured Housing (mobile homes) to address the housing shortfall in the parish. "Unlike Hurricane Katrina, our residents did not relocate all over the country, and the majority of homes can be repaired rather than demolished. Many residents are with family and friends and over 600 are in hotels outside of the parish; this is a problem. Our residents want to repair their homes so they can return to them as quickly as possible," said President Robottom.
Temporary housing is the number one concern for many displaced residents and all avenues for remedying this problem are being addressed simultaneously. President Robottom is working with FEMA, GOHSEP, the Louisiana Housing Task Force, DOTD, DCFS, the Hotel Association, the Fair Housing Action Center, and the Select Committee on Hurricane Recovery to make every option available for her residents. Short-term housing, Temporary Shelter Assistance (TSA) and Rental Assistance (RA), is available to residents whose homes are not livable. An extension for TSA has been granted through September 30th for individuals who qualify, but hotel availability remains an issue. This extension request is based on need, but FEMA has not released specific information regarding St. John residents, siting privacy issues. Local and state officials continue to press for this information as it is critical to the development of short-term and long-term housing plans for St. John.
FEMA no longer provides travel trailers as a temporary housing measure; however, the Rental Assistance (RA) awards can be used for travel trailers, campers and RVs. Manufactured housing vendors, who are registered with the state and meet the appropriate insurance requirements, are encouraged to contact the Parish so their contact information can be shared with local residents. President Robottom and her staff are also addressing issues related to hotel availability, transportation, and site selection for long-term housing. Commissioner of Insurance, James Donelon, has been contacted to address insurance needs, state officials are working to secure money to close holes in housing funding gaps, and the federal government is being lobbied for hurricane protection.
Despite information to the contrary, St. John Parish is working at a record pace in providing resources and funding opportunities for its residents when compared with other areas of the state. FEMA inspectors have completed 9,247 of the 9,840 housing inspections requested, which is 94% completion rate compared with 80% in other areas. St. John residents have been awarded $17 million of the $55 million in Housing Assistance and $2.3 million of the $11 million in Other Needs Assistance statewide. With regard to Interim Housing Assistance (IHA), which includes Transitional Sheltering Assistance and Rental Assistance, 8,620 of the 31,381 households are St. John residents, which is second only to Jefferson Parish. Although the DSNAP program in St. John ended yesterday, 8,232 households were approved for food stamps valued at over $3.3 million. Applications are continuing to be accepted online and by phone.
"There can be no healing until solutions are provided to address residents' immediate needs. This is a long-term process and anyone who believes the parish can return to normalcy only two weeks following one of the worst disasters in St. John's history is unrealistic", said President Robottom.
For more information about St. John the Baptist Parish visit sjbparish.com, like us on Facebook or follow us on twitter @SJBPgov