Red Cross/HUD Teaming Up For Disaster Housing

The next time a major hurricane disaster hits somewhere in the United States, FEMA will not be the only agency handling disaster housing. Thursday, the American Red Cross and the Department of Housing and Urban Development announced a partnership that should speed up the process.

The Red Cross has expertise in emergency housing and HUD has handled long term public housing needs. The two agencies say in a national state of emergency like Katrina, together they can do more, faster, to help disaster victims.

After Katrina, American Red Cross shelters provided temporary emergency housing for thousands of storm victims, many of whom had no homes to go back to.

Bill Brent, Director of the Mississippi Gulf Coast chapter, said, " We just across the board weren't prepared to respond to all that, the needs that individuals had in particularly as learned over the last two years, housing being one of the biggest issues that there were."

On Thursday in Washington, D.C., the Red Cross signed off on an agreement to allow HUD to work inside its shelters following a hurricane. That way government representatives will help elderly and disabled storm victims fill out paperwork and get people into housing sooner.

"FEMA has been the key agency to deal with the federal government's housing program for people who were affected by the storm. Through this agreement, HUD is now taking a more active, earlier role in processing and providing for that need," said Brent.

Red Cross officials say the new partnership with HUD should bring some piece of mind for people staying in shelters.

"Anything the Red Cross can do to provide individuals with a clear head on their shoulders when they're having to deal with these other decisions. And to make that process easier on them, so that it's not one more mental health issue that they're having to deal with."

In a national disaster, HUD also plans to offer other services like the National Housing Locator, which is a data base of available rental housing across the country. And also immediate foreclosure relief in the form of a 90 day moratorium for all FHA home mortgages.