New state hot line seeks available housing for refugees

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:54

    ALBANY, N.Y. — The state has set up a way to connect New Yorkers to Gulf Coast refugees displaced by Hurricane Katrina. The state announced a hot line, 1-888-7-NYS-AID (697-243), to collect information on available space if refugees arrive Last week, New York officials told the Federal Emergency Management Agency the state could welcome at least 5,000 refugees. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg also has said the city is ready to take 1,000 refugees. Gov. George Pataki said FEMA yesterday put evacuations to states outside the southeast U.S. on hold because most refugees wanted to stay close to home. Pataki urged any refugees already in the state to call the hot line to learn about available benefits. The state is looking for transitional housing, for up to six months, and temporary housing, for six to 18 months. New York originally offered shelter space, but many refugees really don't want to go to another shelter, Pataki said. This way, relief workers can say, "We have an apartment in New York waiting for you, or we have a family in New York waiting to take in an individual," Pataki said. New York Secretary of State Randy Daniels has been appointed to lead the state's relief efforts. Daniels' father is from Louisiana, and his mother is from Mississippi. The refugee hot line is open seven days a week, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends. Already, counties that have said they're interested in taking refuges include Nassau, Suffolk, Monroe, Erie and Onondaga. Other New York relief efforts after Katrina include the following: • The state has donated $2.5 million to the Red Cross. • The state is preparing to send 1,000 Army National Guard soldiers to the Gulf Coast, probably in the next 10 days. The soldiers specialize in military police, civil engineering and logistical support. • The Fire Department of New York City is providing 300 people to New Orleans. • The SUNY and CUNY university systems are offering in-state tuition rates to displaced students. So far, 190 SUNY students and 35 CUNY students have accepted. • The Metropolitan Transportation Authority has sent 230 personnel and 100 buses.