BILOXI, Miss. -- A new housing resource is available online to help families displaced by Hurricane Katrina. The Housing Portal website, operated by the Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), provides listings of available property throughout the United States.
The website, rims.fema.gov/hportal/home.htm, allows people to search for housing by state, city, county, or zip code. Users can specify their exact housing needs. The listings include information such as handicap accessibility, number of bedrooms, amount of deposit, and included appliances and utilities. Rental properties are also available in the Gulf Coast area.
Landlords can call 1-228-594-3507 or 3508, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., to list their available property. They also can leave a message during non-working hours and a FEMA representative will return their call.
"We want families to have a real place to call home. As we approach the hurricane season, it's important to have a stable environment," said Jeff Byard, acting director of the FEMA Transitional Recovery Office. "The Housing Portal is an invaluable tool but we need support from landlords. If you have empty apartments, give us a call."
People can also access the Housing Portal through the www.fema.gov website. Select 'Recover & Rebuild' at the top of the page, click on 'Find a place to stay' on the right, then click on 'Search for information about housing rental resources' at the bottom of the page.
Families living in FEMA temporary housing who do not have access to the Internet can still work with their FEMA Housing Advisor to find available housing resources. Occupants who do not have Internet access also can call the numbers listed above to ask about listed properties.
The site is updated regularly so users should check it often. Website operators are currently working to move the Housing Portal to a more prominent location on www.fema.gov.
At the peak of disaster housing operations, nearly 50,000 households occupied FEMA temporary housing. Nearly 16,000 families have moved out of FEMA units and relocated to more permanent living conditions. Currently, there are fewer than 28,000 occupied units primarily in the three coastal counties.
FEMA manages federal response and recovery efforts following any national incident, initiates mitigation activities and manages the National Flood Insurance Program. FEMA works closely with state and local emergency managers, law enforcement personnel, firefighters and other first responders. FEMA became part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on March 1, 2003.