Katrina victims find housing on Western Slope, don’t need host families | PostIndependent.com

Katrina victims find housing on Western Slope, don’t need host families

NEW CASTLE – In September, Merri Schoon was ready to open her home to a family that escaped the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. Today, as donations continue to roll in, families in need of help are bypassing potential host families and finding other places to stay. Schoon participates in the Katrina Relocation Project, a Grand Junction-based group that helps Gulf Coast families relocating after the hurricane find homes somewhere on the Western Slope.”We’ve been able to get everyone into housing instead of having them live with families,” said project co-director Trevina Ready. She said only a few relocating families have stayed with host families, but those remained only long enough to find places to live on their own.Allaying the need for host families, Ready said, are new programs from the Red Cross and Federal Emergency Management Agency allowing evacuees to remain in hotel rooms indefinitely. But relocating families continue to come to the Western Slope, including five that the Katrina Relocation Project is now helping. None are using host families, Ready said. For Schoon, who asked for and received mountains of donated clothes and other goods in September for a potential family she offered to host, a lack of needy families means that all the donations she was given are going to several evacuee families now being sponsored by the town of New Castle. Town administrative assistant Mindy Gulliksen said Friday the town is currently sponsoring three Gulf Coast families living on their own in New Castle. With families finding other accommodations instead of using potential host families like the Schoons, “It’s a little discouraging for me,” said Schoon, who spent countless hours on the phone trying to arrange having an evacuee family take up residence at her house. “We were hoping to host a family.”After she started looking for help for the family she planned to host, friends and strangers donated more than $1,100 to a special account at Alpine Bank and more than 50 large garbage bags full of clothes and other goods. “You could hardly see the window,” Schoon said. But she said she now knows why relocating families would want to be on their own. “It would be hard to go through what they’ve gone through, and move in with strangers,” she said. “I’m beginning to understand (hosting a family is) not what I should do.”But Schoon says other relocating families from the Gulf Coast need help, so she’ll continue her efforts. “Now I’m on a coat drive,” she said. She’s trying to arrange for town-sponsored families to be outfitted with winter clothing, snow boots and other equipment. Food and debit cards for gasoline are also needed, she said. “If somebody doesn’t come our way, this is the best I can do,” she said, calling the outpouring of support and community generosity “overwhelming.”Contact Bobby Magill: 945-8515, ext. 520bmagill@postindependent.com

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