USA

IRC marks end of Katrina evacuee assistance program

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Nearly two years after responding to a humanitarian crisis in the United States for the first time in its history, the International Rescue Committee last week closed its Hurricane Katrina evacuee assistance program in Atlanta. The program was launched immediately after Katrina destroyed a swath of the Gulf Coast in September 2006.

During 18 months of continuous operation, the Atlanta program distributed $350,000 in direct assistance to 1,300 evacuees and matched volunteer mentors with over 200 affected families.

Atlanta was among the U.S. cities most affected by the arrival of evacuees from the Gulf Coast. Thousands of families struggled to build a new life in Georgia while still carrying debt and responsibilities from their Louisiana homes. The IRC provided intensive case management for evacuees suffering from career interruptions, post-traumatic stress disorder, problems with insurers and debt.

During the past six months the Atlanta resettlement office helped cover childcare costs for newly employed single mothers, helped evacuees gain access to low income housing and supported families who decided to return home to New Orleans and the Gulf Coast.

"The IRC filled an enormous gap and was a key player in helping thousands of displaced people and families," said Ellen Beattie, director of the Atlanta resettlement office. "We also learned that the IRC's system of resettlement really works in situations like these. The experience of being forcibly displaced is the same wherever it occurs."