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By The Skanner News | The Skanner News
Published: 15 February 2006

Although a few more evacuees show up each week, local officials have ended emergency efforts to settle more than 1,000 people who have moved to the Portland area on their own after they were driven from the Gulf Coast by Hurricane Katrina.

Relief workers closed an interim housing center at a former high school in Southeast Portland this week after helping 260 displaced families find homes, enroll their children in school and connect with medical and mental health care.
Will White, development directorofPortland's bureau of housing and development, which coordinated the effort, called it a success.

Of 1,036 people who came to the Portland area after fleeing the floodwaters, half were matched with some combination of mental health support, medical care, housing, food stamps, clothing and basic furnishings. All but six families found permanent homes.

But jobs for the evacuees have been scarce. Willie Brown, a liaison hired to connect evacuees to services, said only about 15 have found work out of more than 130 who had sought help finding low-wage construction, carpentry, food service and office-clerk jobs.

Illiteracy abounds among the arrivals. Brown's staff helped manage paperwork in which evacuees are mired. When the last two temporary Katrina specialists are let go at month's end, the evacuees will have to fend for themselves.
"People are being told they now need to rely on whatever resources people here in Portland have to rely on," White said.

More Katrina survivors arrive weekly — friends and family members of those already here. Six new households arrived in the first week of February, he said.

Meanwhile, Oregon state officials say they're still bargaining with the federal government over details of repayments for about $4.7 million spent to prepare for as many as 500 evacuees, most of whom never came. These were people the federal government was to relocate, as distinguished from the more than 1,000 who came on their own.

The Oregon National Guard submitted a bill to the state of Louisiana for $2.7 million to cover the cost of sending about 2,100 troops to the region, said Col. Mike Caldwell, deputy director of the Oregon Guard.

Louisiana will forward the billtotheFederal Emergency Management Agency, Caldwell said. "We think we'll be paid."
Of the rest of the money, a spokesperson for FEMA said the federal government has given Oregon a check for more than $1.9 million to cover verified and estimated costs.

But Ken Murphy, director of Oregon's Emergency Management Office, said Thursday that the government has questioned whether some of the costs submitted are legally reimbursable. He said a building owner asked for reimbursement for the time the structure was off the market awaiting evacuees.

"From past experience," he said, "there will probably be some expenses that won't be reimbursed."

— The Associated Press

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