New program helps Katrina victims rebuild their lives

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - By Trang Pham-Bui – bio | email

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) – Hope CDA volunteers and staff are working hard to finish rebuilding a Katrina-ravaged home on 33rd Avenue.  They're helping a Gulfport woman who needs to move out of her MEMA cottage by the end of the month.

The Biloxi organization is ready to help more storm victims return to their homes. This week, it kicked-off a new Home Rehabilitation Program to help people who can't afford to rebuild their houses.

"The rehab areas will be Harrison, Hancock, Jackson and Pearl River Counties.  We're branching out of Harrison County. We'll be able to do 32 to 35 eligible low to moderate income families," said Tuyen Tran, Hope CDA Case Manager Supervisor.

Each eligible homeowner can receive up to $55,000. The money will go directly toward construction materials.  Hope CDA will provide the labor.

"The maximum is $55,000.  If the need is more than $55,000, homeowners have to come up with the difference to complete the house. The home must be completed once it's started," said Tran.

To qualify, applicants must meet certain income requirements, depending on the county they live in and household size.  For example, if you have a family of four, you live in Harrison County, and earn $63,000 a year, you could be eligible.

The home must also be their primary residence and they must have all the required insurance.   The program is being funded by a $1.7 million Mississippi Development Authority grant.

"There's no deadline," said Tran.  "It's just first come, first serve, and once the funding is out, we won't be accepting anymore."

And since the funding is handled directly by Hope CDA, it's supposed to speed-up the approval process.

"It's been a long time.  But right now, we're going to celebrate what we've done and try to work on the needs that are still out there," said Tran. "To provide them a sanitary, safe house to live in, and put them back to where they were before Katrina."

The amount of money you get is based on your home's damage assessment, previous benefits you've received, and available funds. To apply for the program, you can call Hope CDA at (228) 435-7180 or stop by their office on 425 Division Street in east Biloxi.

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