Katrina evacuees still need assistance in Arizona

Flagstaff, AZ – About a year ago the Federal Emergency Management Agency evacuated hundreds of people to Phoenix and Tucson and several more came on their own. About 28-hundred evacuees registered with FEMA in Arizona. Over the last year about half of them have sought help from Project Restore. The project is a state-supervised effort to provide immediate services to families, everything from help paying their rent to getting federal benefits. Governor Janet Napolitano says they've been keeping track of those who have registered with FEMA.

NAPOLITANO: Many are doing very well. They found jobs. They found new homes, new schools. There are some who are having some troubles. There are some who when they lived in New Orleans were on welfare, didn't work, don't have skill sets or have other problems like that. So we have to work with them the way you work with an individual who has never worked. But for the most part they're doing very well and for the most part they're deciding to stay in Arizona.

Debra Sheff manages Arizona's Katrina Aid Today Project - a FEMA funded relief effort. She says about 10 percent of those who originally evacuated to Arizona have chosen to stay.

SHEFF: Most people we thought initially would go back but they're staying. They're finding there isn't much to go back to.

Sheff's program helps clients find affordable housing, jobs and transportation. She says it's been difficult to find them housing and jobs in Arizona. Be that as it may she says she has seen just a few cases where people abuse the system.

SHEFF: I would say there's just a few few cases where that's happening. But most clients that we've been seeing don't wanna be assisted. They wanna get on their own and be independent. But they need a little help so we'll help them until they get on their feet. So for example we might pay a month's rent if we know they have a job lined up the next month.

Much of the relief funds dry up in October of next year.

For Arizona Public Radio I'm Laurel Morales.