Non-Profit Group Will Create Affordable Living For Hurricane Victims - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Non-Profit Group Will Create Affordable Living For Hurricane Victims

A group called the Katrina Housing Corporation will use seed money from area businesses to start building homes and apartments across the coast that people can afford. And whenever it's necessary, it will provide loans and grants to people who just don't have enough money to cover the full cost of a mortgage.

Valerie Kennard could qualify for that assistance. Kennard works at the Port of Gulfport. She monitors who enters and leaves the port during her security shift. Before Katrina, Kennard had an apartment. Now, she's in a FEMA trailer. And her prospects of getting out of it look pretty grim.

That's why, when she was asked to define affordable housing, Kennard shrugged her shoulders and said, "Anything without a FEMA trailer. I would like to at least have a bedroom, a kitchen or a living room."

Kennard would like to move out of her temporary home. But in this post hurricane world, she said a decent apartment was either too hard to find, or way too expensive to rent.

"No, lordy they done priced them apartments and stuff up three times. It was $400 when I was there. Now it's $750. So I can't afford that," she admitted.

That's where Gerald Blessey enters the picture.

"There are plenty of great plans out there," the former Biloxi mayor said. "Now it's time to take the bull by the horns and take some action."

Blessey is a member of the new Gulf Coast Business Council. His group has decided to form a non-profit corporation focused on Katrina housing issues. Its sole mission will be to find ways to lend a hand to people in the workforce who need help finding and paying for a decent place to live.

"The meat of this proposal really is the business council will become the catalyst for creating a corporation that will actually go out and raise the capital and start building projects," he said.

Blessey calls the affordable living issue the business community's greatest concern, because without places for people to live, hurricane victims won't come home, and jobs will remain vacant.

You don't have to tell that to Valerie Kennard.

"I'm thinking about going home because there's no where around here you can stay that you can afford. And the little help the government gave me was good, but it didn't last," she said. "I really thank FEMA for the trailer. But the trailers aren't livable."

The Gulf Coast Business Council wants to hire its Katrina Housing Corporation staff by November 30th. The staff will be responsible for raising seed money, so the building process can begin.

by Brad Kessie

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