St. John Housing recovering well from Katrina

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 25, 2005


Staff Reporter

LAPLACE — The St. John the Baptist Parish Housing Authority was not tremendously affected by Hurricane Katrina, but do have vacant housing for evacuees.

Housing Authority Director Joseph Johnson said when disaster hits the first place people look to is housing.

“We have had some challenges,” Johnson said. “Security is one, and the other is trying to get the units turned over and fixed for people who have evacuated.”

Johnson said evacuees have been a delight.

“It’s remarkable to see the bright smiles people have after going through this,” he said. “They are not demanding, they are patient and they understand. I really appreciate that, because it makes it easier to work with them.”

Housing and Urban Development representatives have met with Johnson and have suggested turning over vacant housing for evacuees and they will reimburse the housing authority for the expenses.

“We have about 70 vacant units,” he said. “This is because of evictions from lease violation, drugs, etc. We are not going to accept this kind of behavior, and thanks to the Sheriff’s Office, we are able to keep the neighborhoods pretty safe.”

Johnson said a HUD representative said they would receive reimbursements as soon as a couple of weeks, but Johnson is not concerned.

“Whether we get the money now or later, it doesn’t matter,” he said. “We have the vacant units. We are, however; keeping our contracts for the companies we are working with on this separate, so that we are able to keep track of repair costs and other expenses.”

In addition to helping house evacuees not able to get into public housing, Rev. Donald Brown with Providence Baptist Church in Montz has met with FEMA representatives on placing 50 to 125 temporary trailers adjacent to the church.

“We have had a lot of support from the church and the parish council, Brown said. “We just want to help people, because we could have been the ones in this situation.”

The trailers will be placed there temporary for 18 months to two years.

“We should start this process by the end of this month or beginning of next,” Brown said. “While they are in the temporary trailers, their homes will be getting rebuilt, and eventually they will begin to move back in.”

When this process starts, anyone will be given the opportunity to sign-up, but there are restrictions.

“We will be doing background checks,” Brown said. “Because we want our existing community and the new additions to the community to feel safe. The process will begin with the evacuees signing up at the church, then we will go from there.”