Gautier urges homeowners to apply for Katrina grants before deadline

GAUTIER, MS (WLOX) - By Danielle Thomas – bio | email

GAUTIER, MS (WLOX) - The city of Gautier wants people still struggling to repair their Katrina damaged homes to reach out for help before it's too late. January 31st is the deadline to apply for HUD's $132 million homeowner grant program. Gautier leaders say they're not only encouraging people to apply, they're sticking with them through the process.

Hurricane Katrina damaged everything from the roof to the floor boards in James Michael Morgan's Gautier mobile home. He says he worries every time he sets foot inside.

"My floors are caving in with the water that come up in from the hurricane and never was replaced,"said Morgan. "All the insulation is out from underneath the trailer."

Gautier's Neighborhood Improvement Coordinator RoxAnn Krebs is spreading the word about how eligible homeowners could receive up to $75,000 Katrina recovery money. She's targeting mobile home owners who might be able to either fix damage or get a MEMA cottage.

"This is the last bit of Katrina funding and some of these residents weren't able to get the funding the first time," said Krebs. "So we really wanted to seize the opportunity, go door to door, case the neighborhood and speak to them individually and encourage them."

Gautier officials say one reason they're talking to people about opportunities to move into better housing is that the city doesn't want to one day tell people that their current homes are not up to code.

Krebs said, "The Neighborhood Services Division definitely doesn't ever want to displace anyone, but wants to encourage them to receive a new home, to receive the funding that's available through MDA so those types of violations aren't enforced. "

And Krebs' job doesn't end once homeowners submit their applications.

"I know the process before, that's what I've been hearing from a lot of the residents is they didn't understand the process," Krebs said. "They didn't really grasp what they were supposed to be doing. That's where Neighborhood Services Division really comes in and is that advocate for these residents."

James Michael Morgan said receiving a MEMA cottage would make a world of difference in his life.

"It would be nice, oh, gosh yes. It would be a dream come true. I could get up and not worry about falling through the floor, at least," Morgan said.

Gautier officials say their liaison assistance is open to all Jackson County residents. The city plans to help provide transportation once people get their appointments set up.  For more information about who qualifies for the grants, call (228) 219-4829.

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