CHICAGO – Marking the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) Secretary Carol L. Adams, Ph.D. announced that state assistance is still available to help thousands of Katrina evacuees living in Illinois. IDHS has extended the Illinois Katrina Assistance and Relief Effort (I-KARE) that offers evacuees help to pay their rent, security deposits, utilities, medical bills, transportation, education and helps them with job training and placement through 2009.
“Two years ago, Illinois stepped up to the plate and helped more than 10,000 victims find shelter, food, medical care and even schools for their children. But in many cases it takes more than two years to rebuild a life that’s been turned completely upside-down by such a disaster” said Secretary Adams. “We owe it to the victims of Katrina to finish what we’ve started and help them put their lives back together here in Illinois.”
To date, more than 6,000 evacuees still live in Illinois, with about two-thirds in the Chicagoland area and many others in the Rockford and East St. Louis areas. Most have been able to find permanent housing, either through federally-funded Section 8 arrangements or on their own. Still others are in need of vital services as they become Illinois residents.
IDHS received a $1.3 million dollar grant from the federal government for services related to assisting Katrina evacuees in December 2006. IDHS provided services to more than 275 families in Fiscal Year 2007 and the funding will be available through FY 09.
For those that are still finding it difficult to identify services and resources in Illinois, the following assistance is being offered through I-KARE:
• Rent and/or utility assistance for those who are behind on payments;
• Job training and placement;
• Substance abuse or mental health counseling;
• Financial literacy to help individuals to budget and plan for future education; and
• Assistance with securing public assistance benefits such as Food Stamps, TANF and medical benefits.
IDHS has established a toll-free hotline for evacuees that are in need of assistance as they move toward self sufficiency. Monday through Friday, evacuees can call to speak with a client facilitator who can assess individual needs and work to connect survivors to vital services in the community.
“I was evacuated from my home after Katrina hit the southern coast. I know first hand, it’s difficult to put your life back together in a strange place,” said Gary Woods, I-KARE Client Facilitator. “We have the available resources to help people who chose to stay in Illinois and we want people to know there is still assistance available.”
Working with the federal authorities, Illinois took in more than 10,000 evacuees from New Orleans and other parts of Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina devastated the region. The state also provided Illinois National Guardsmen and other emergency workers to assist with the rescue and cleanup operations in the areas ravaged by the storm.
IDHS also worked with other state and local agencies, as well as not-for-profit organizations, and private and public institutions across the state to reach out to hundreds of sheltered individuals.
The I-KARE program continues to contract for the delivery of services through four community-based agencies, Heartland Alliance, Catholic Charities, Chicago Area Project and Lessie Bates. For more information on the services and assistance provided through I-KARE, evacuees still in need of assistance can call (800) 768-9146.