Bruce Brodoff Communications
Bruce Brodoff Communications
Refuge For Katrina Family Home In On Rockaway Apt.
By Warren Woodbury Jr.

IF ALL GOES well, Joseph Melancon and his family will move into an apartment before they and other Hurricane Katrina victims are forced out of Jamaica hotels this week.

Melancon, 46, has been scrambling to find housing ever since he lost everything when the killer storm devastated New Orleans and he ended up in Jamaica's Radisson Hotel in October.

He has finally been able to bring his fiancée and the two teenage daughters they share here to join him, but time is quickly running out. Tomorrow, some of the 50 families at the Radisson and Holiday Inn hotels must check out when room payments that have been picked up by the Federal Emergency Management Agency stop.

Some, like Melancon, have received an extension by FEMA to stay until next Monday. After that, things get complicated; Melancon has found a one-bedroom apartment in Far Rockaway for him and his family - but must come up with $3,000 before they can move in.

"If I lose that [the apartment], then I lose everything - again," said Melancon.

A cook by trade, he has received four job offers - but first must establish residency before he can work.

"My situation, it ain't changed much," he said. "I'm trying to establish a life for them [his family] up here."

FEMA spokesman Bruce Brodoff said families may remain in the hotels if they can afford to pay, but added that the agency discourages them from using the $2,358 in rental assistance it is providing every three months for just that purpose.

"The real effort is to conclude the ... program in hotels and to help them find permanent housing," said Brodoff.

The Katrina refugees have faced eviction from the hotels numerous times since arriving in the city in the aftermath of the September hurricane.

In recent months, some displaced families managed to return to their homes in New Orleans, while others have found jobs and housing here in New York or elsewhere.

As the final deadline for FEMA's hotel-room rental program nears, and with many Katrina victims still uncertain about where they will go, a local southeast Queens elected official wants the city to step in.

State Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-St. Albans), whose district includes the Jamaica area, has proposed that the Bloomberg administration partner with nonprofit groups to sign housing leases for victims.

To get around a restriction that prohibits the city from directly renting apartments for the Katrina victims, Smith said the city could disburse funding to groups, with the federal government reimbursing the city later. The senator said he awaits a response from the mayor's office.

"The victims are holding up pretty well," said Smith. "They get a little anxious when they get close to a [eviction] date, but they're getting help."

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