Evacuees to enjoy holidays without worry about rooms

(West Columbia) Dec. 13, 2005 - Hurricane evacuees staying in hotels have a little more time to find a more permanent place to stay. A judge has ordered FEMA to extend the hotel deadline to February.

For many families, it's great news just before the holidays.

For three months, Helen Fortia has called a hotel room home, "It's been very nice. I've been enjoying myself here, staying in my little house. This is what I call it. It's kind of clustered, but I love it here."

Her bed is an office to deal with the paperwork, an enormous amount she says. Every little detail, from deadlines to turning on the heat in what will be her new home, must be documented.

Helen says, "Every day we get a notice. We're going to expire this date, that date, the other date. That's nothing to get you settled."

Monday, a federal judge in Louisiana ruled FEMA must pay the hotel bills for evacuees through February 7, once again extending the deadline six weeks.

In his opinion, the judge called FEMA's policies "unduly callous and numbingly insensitive."

Judge Stanwood Duval wrote, "It is unimaginable what anxiety and misery these erratic and bizarre vacillations by FEMA have caused these victims, all of whom, for at least one point in time, had the very real fear of being without shelter for Christmas."

Helen talks about the situation before the decision, "Before this, it was December 15 and its does not do anything but arouse everybody's temperature and blood pressure."

Helen hopes to be in a permanent home next week. She's been working on it for months and says she quickly learned evacuees have to take responsibility too, "If you don't get up and try to do it for yourself, you just have to wait and see what they are going to do and that may be a long time."

Reported by Heather Brown

Posted 6:10pm by Chantelle Janelle