When Evacuees Become Residents

Today, the state's Health and Human Services Commission will be releasing a report titled Hurricane Katrina Evacuees in Texas--"a comprehensive effort to collect data on the number of Katrina evacuees still in Texas, their plans to remain or not remain in the state, and their need for services as they rebuild their lives in Texas communities." The state identified the evacuees using info gathered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA); folks who registered for emergency aid were among those counted in the study, which the state admits in its report is "an inaccurate representation of all hurricane evacuees." Still, it was better than nothing--and the state needed to do something to mark the one-year anniversary, since, it reveals, "numerous elected officials" throughout the state had expressed "interest and concern" in the long- and short-range impact evacuees were having on the state.

Gallup helped with the survey, conducting 15- to 20-minute phone interviews with some 6,415 "randomly selected evacuee households." According to the study, a total of 251,000 evacuees remain in Texas a year after Katrina--66,000 living in the North Texas area, 2,017 of whom were interviewed for the study. (Houston has the most folks living in the area: 111,000 estimated, and likely more than that.)

Among the key findings:

  • Katrina evacuees are mostly African-American women who are low-income and living in households with children.
  • Most families living in Texas do not have plans to leave the state within the next six months, and half believe they will be here a year from now. Forty percent plan on staying for at least two years, while the rest are likely to stay forever.
  • Most of the people who came to Texas remain unemployed (59 percent of those surveyed), while 41 percent are living in households bringing in under $500 a month.
  • Thirty-seven percent of those surveyed claim their physical health has deteriorated since coming to Texas, "compared to 20 percent prior to Katrina."
  • Only 33 percent said "that someone in their family receives Medicaid, down from 41 percent before the hurricane."
  • And while only 12 percent of those surveyed still live in temporary housing or with someone else, 135,000 evacuees (including 55,000 children) depend on housing subsidies.
  • In a few moments, we'll have more details from the report--including detailed demographics of Katrina evacuees living in North Texas and the state's conclusions. In short, Katrina evacuees aren't using health and human services the way they should, but they will. And it won't be cheap. --Robert Wilonsky

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    Robert Wilonsky
    Contact: Robert Wilonsky

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