November 3, 2005 — More than 19 families (52 individuals) who were forced from their Louisiana homes by Hurricane Katrina have found new homes and renewed hope in Charlotte, North Carolina, thanks to emergency action taken by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Housing Partnership, Inc. (CMHP) to waive application fees, rent, subsidize utility expenses and streamline operating procedures.
LySandra Kenion-Paul, the mother of
nine-week-old twins and a toddler, had to evacuee her Louisiana home in the wake of Hurrican Katrina. She received housing and support from a NeighborWorks organization in Charlotte, North Carolina. Her husband, a Louisiana state trooper, stayed behind to assist with relief efforts.
Just days after Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast region, CMHP — a broad-based, private, nonprofit development corporation which provides affordable housing for low and moderate-income families– reserved 20 vacant units throughout the 11 developments it owns for Katrina evacuees seeking housing in Charlotte.
For LySandra Kenion-Paul, who fled her home in storm-ravaged Slidell, La. with her nine-week-old twins and one-year-old son, the assistance she received from CMHP and its community partners provided her with essential support in the days following the hurricane.
“Within two days, I was settled,” said Kenion-Paul, whose husband, a Louisiana state trooper, remained behind to assist with emergency relief efforts. “The neighbors here have been so friendly, welcoming me into the community and asking if there’s anything they can do. They knock on the door to make sure me and the kids are OK. They volunteer to take the oldest one down to the playground. Everyone opened up their hearts and gave without any questions, so it’s really been a blessing.”
In order to meet the urgent needs of displaced families like Kenion-Paul’s, CMHP waived application requirements and fees, including security deposit, utility expenses, and rent through the end of October. CMHP also streamlined the application process, enabling evacuees to work directly with housing developments to help families settle into new homes quickly.
“Within 24 to 36 hours, we could tell applicants whether they had passed the check to get into a unit, a process that normally takes three weeks,” said Lee Cochran, vice president of asset/risk management for CMHP. “In addition, CMHP worked closely with local church and service groups to provide home furnishings for our units, which come equipped with refrigerators, stoves and dishwashers. All the pieces fell into place nicely, which helped us to quickly place families in safe, stable situations in our housing communities.”
Like many of the evacuees that CMHP has helped, Kenion-Paul hopes to remain in the area and build a new life for her family.
“I think I’m going to try to stay here,” Kenion-Paul said. “I don’t think I want to experience that again with three small kids. After the hurricane, a lot of people said they felt displaced, that they didn’t feel comfortable where they were, and I never felt that way. Everyone has been so nice. Words just can’t express the generosity that they have given to me and my family.”
The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Housing Partnership, Inc. is a broad-based, private, nonprofit housing development and financial corporation organized to expand affordable and well-maintained housing within stable neighborhoods for low and moderate-income families in the City of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County with a continuing interest in the ability of occupants to more fully enter the economic mainstream. Incorporated as a 501(c)(3) corporation in 1988, CMHP is committed to continued collaboration with the private sector, along with neighborhood and government partners, in promoting and developing economically integrated neighborhoods.