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Alphonso Jackson
Alphonso Jackson
Secretary of Housing and Urban Development

September 13, 2005

Alphonso Jackson

Good afternoon. I'm Alphonso Jackson, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Due to Hurricane Katrina, our nation's housing is on the minds of all Americans. That is the reason why I am here to talk to you today and answer any HUD related questions you may have.

The HUD family is deeply saddened by the catastrophic damage and loss of life Hurricane Katrina has left in its wake. The victims...their families...those forced from their homes, and especially those who have lost loved ones, are in our thoughts and prayers as they cope with this tragedy and begin to rebuild their lives.

For the families that have been forced from their homes, our top priority is to get them into temporary housing as quickly as possible. In order to be most effective the President has directed all federal agencies to ease the regulatory burden for the affected areas.

Currently, HUD is identifying vacant multi-family and single-family housing, public housing units, HUD owned homes and available Section 8 units throughout the country that can be used as temporary and permanent housing for those who have been displaced.

I am now happy to take your questions.

Mark, from Boston writes:
Secretary Jackson, how many states have stepped up to house evacuees? I heard that even DC has taken a couple hundred. I am constantly amazed by the compassion of the American people and more so when I realize that those who often offer the most, usually have the least to give. Thank you for all you are doing!

Alphonso Jackson
Mark you are right about the compassion of the American people. There has been an outpouring of support from across the country to help the hundreds of thousands of victims of Katrina. People of all races, religions and backgrounds are dedicated to restoring lives and communities.

In addition to the many states that have offered their support to the Federal government to help house evacuees, we know that evacuees are seeking shelter from friends and family across the country and that every state is offering support any way they can. From sending first responders to the region to enrolling evacuated students at their schools and universities, the response from coast to coast, as well as Alaska and Hawaii, has been an inspiration.

Craig, from Pittsburgh writes:
Thousands of public housing and FHA-insured multifamily Section 8 rental units were either damaged or destroyed by Hurrican Katrina in the Gulf Coast and cities such as New Orleans.

My question is: What do you plan to do to ensure that these federally assisted housing units are either rehabilitated or replaced with permanent affordable housing for the low income families whose homes there were?

Alphonso Jackson
We are just beginning to evaluate the physical condition of public housing units and rental units across the affected area. The rebuilding process will begin as soon as the affected areas are safe to re-inhabit and HUD will be doing everything within its reach to ensure that this process meets the needs of those affected in the fastest manner possible.

Right now, HUD is trying to locate the hundreds of public housing residents and public housing employees that were displaced by Hurricane Katrina. As we assess the damage, we will determine whether to renovate, rebuild, or find alternative locations for these units. In the meantime, we are taking steps to make Section 8 vouchers transferable so voucher holders can attempt to find housing in other areas of the country.

Barbara, from Los Angeles, CA writes:
It has occured to me that closed and closing army and naval bases would make ideal locations for the many - many evauees. They are like small cities and could well be made into good housing at least temporarily. Evauees could even help in refurbishing the bases and make them more liveable. Sincerely, Barbara L.

Alphonso Jackson
Military bases do provide an excellent place for temporary housing. In fact, the former Kelly Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, is already receiving busloads of evacuees from New Orleans. Fort Chaffee Army Post in Arkansas is ready to house evacuees, Camp Gruber, an Army and National Guard site in Oklahoma, is also making land available on its base, and even as far away as Boston, the Otis Air Force base is generously making 3000 housing units available to evacuees.

The federal government is working hard to identify areas throughout the region and the country that will be able to provide suitable temporary housing to those that need it and closed military bases are just one option. Every available option to house evacuees is being reviewed.

kathi, from Brooklyn, New York writes:
How can I provide temporary housing to a single woman and child. I have an extra bedroom and would love to help. Also, Is it possible that I could interview these people first before making a decision.

Alphonso Jackson
Thank you for offering your home to help those in need. It has been touching to see support coming from every corner of our country. The victims of Hurricane Katrina need all of our help during these trying times.

I urge you go to or and register with the National Emergency Resource Center to find out what you can do to help the evacuees.

Joyce, from Atlanta, Ga writes:
Why can't we have each Katrina victim show id, that is proof of residency and give them temporary furnished housing, and $10,000 for living expenses until their city is rebuilt. This would provide immediate relief from living in the domes, rec. centers, etc. We need to help these victims get a sense of pride back as quickly as possible. We could also put together a list of jobs and match them up as well.

Alphonso Jackson
The federal government is working together to be as flexible as possible during this national disaster. All federal agencies, including HUD, realize that many of Katrina’s disaster victims have lost their homes and their livelihoods and most of their personal possessions. I encourage all disaster victims to contact FEMA directly at 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or apply on-line at to register for individual disaster assistance.

Once a family registers, they become eligible for assistance from a wide variety of federal agencies. FEMA can provide up to $26,200 in assistance. The federal government is working closely with organizations such as the Red Cross and the Salvation Army to provide them with immediate assistance. HUD is working with FEMA to provide a list of long-term temporary housing units for disaster victims until they are able to rebuild their homes and their lives.

The Department of Labor is working with state and local agencies to provide lists of available jobs. Already, many of these agencies are setting up booths on site at many shelters across the country. Once evacuees have been housed, measures will be taken to assist them with jobs, schools, healthcare, and to ensure that the framework of their lives is stable and dependable. Our first priority, however, must be getting these individuals out of shelters and into short-term temporary housing.

Shun, from Jackson, Mississippi writes:
I am currently housing displaced families from New OrleansHurricane Katrina. Is there any funding available to me to assist with my mortgage and electrical bills?

Alphonso Jackson
Thank you for your generosity in this time of need. You’re a true example of the American spirit of compassion. There are thousands of people through out the country that have opened their homes to give evacuees a roof over their heads while they begin to rebuild their lives.

At this time, there are no federal programs that offer assistance to volunteers that are housing evacuees but I would suggest checking with your local volunteer organizations or the American Red Cross for support. I would also recommend that you encourage the family you are hosting to call FEMA directly and register for disaster assistance. That number is 1-800-621-3362.

Shirley, from Fort Worth, Texas writes:
We are a branch office for NID Housing Counseling Agency of the National Association of Real Estate Brokers. We are a HUD approved housing counseling agency. How can our agency be of help is this process? Who do we contact?

Alphonso Jackson
Your work in counseling homebuyers will be especially useful in the rebuilding process. The last thing that the people hit by Katrina need is to be exploited by predatory lenders.

I urge you to continue your work with non-profits, public agencies, community and faith-based organizations in the affected regions. You should contact, the Office of Single-Family Housing (202) 708-2121.

robbie, from michigan writes:
I would like to do something to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina. My husband lost his job as a tool and die designer here in Michigan two years ago. My husband changed job directions and now holds a Michigan builders license. We are really struggling financially but are very hard workers.

Is there a way we could help in rebuilding? We would like the chance to possibly build low cost housing communities. Please respond--I still struggle with not being able to come up with money to buy fleece to make blankets for tsunami relief. We are not afraid to work, we are just not financially stable.

Alphonso Jackson
Thank you for offering to help. It is going to be through offers of support like yours that the Hurricane victims will be able to rebuild their lives and their communities. The reconstruction of those affected areas all along the Gulf Coast will require a tremendous amount of skilled workers. I suggest that you contact the Red Cross,; Habitat for Humanity,; or the USA Freedom Corps, for additional help.

Clara, from Seaford, Del. writes:
Mr. Secretary, in the wake of this awful tragedy, I saw in a recent poll that most African-Americans believe that the President doesn't care about black people. As an African-American yourself, and a member of the President's cabinet, I was curious as to your thoughts on the subject.

Alphonso Jackson
It deeply saddens me to hear this, not just because I am a black member of the most diverse Cabinet in presidential history but also because I am a friend of the President. I know that he cares deeply about all Americans. Let me be clear, just as Hurricane Katrina did not discriminate, the recovery effort has not and will not discriminate. And the rebuilding process will not discriminate either.

The fact of the matter is that Hurricane Katrina is one of the worst natural disasters that our country has ever faced and hundreds of thousands of Americans of all races have been affected.

Alphonso Jackson

We must all continue our work during the upcoming weeks and months to make certain every evacuee is appropriately housed. It is the federal government's mission to restore the sense of security a family has when there is a roof over their head. You have my word that HUD will always remain dedicated to the task at hand.

Thank you for all the great questions. I enjoyed spending time with you on "Ask the White House."