CHICAGO – As the nation remembers the third anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, the largest and most devastating natural disaster in U.S. history, Governor Rod R. Blagojevich and Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) Secretary Carol. L. Adams, Ph.D. today announced that the state of Illinois continues to provide services to evacuees of the hurricane. Illinois received the most evacuees outside of the southern states.
Illinois is completing its final stage of hurricane relief: IKARE - Illinois Katrina Assistance Relief Effort. The IKARE effort helps the hundreds of families who have chosen to remain in Illinois. The mission of this phase is to help those families and individuals become self-sufficient and gain the resources needed to assimilate into Illinois. IDHS offers state services ranging from health care to schools, unemployment assistance, job training and referrals, food stamps, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and much more.
“Hurricane Katrina devastated the lives of thousands of men, women and children. Three years ago, Illinois stepped up to the plate and helped thousands of victims find shelter, food, medical care and even schools for their children. And we will continue helping evacuees living in Illinois for as long as they need assistance,” said Governor Blagojevich. “Today we must also remember and commend all those in Illinois who helped thousands of people from the Gulf States in their time of need.”
In order to strengthen the State’s commitment to look after its guests, Governor Blagojevich directed the Illinois Department of Human Services to make sure Katrina evacuees were not at risk for homelessness and are provided with resources to get back on their feet. Since October 2007, IDHS implemented a three phase program that offered Katrina evacuees the maximum benefits and resources offered by the state.
The first phase of the program dealt with the immediate needs and concerns of evacuees from the moment they arrived in Illinois. The goal of this phase was to provide them with rental and housing assistance, delinquent utilities assistance, as well as medical, transportation, education and job training and placement assistance.
The second phase was geared towards taking care of the mental health needs of the evacuees. The emotional toll brought on by the hurricane had a tremendous impact on its victims, who not only lost their homes, but lost family members and their lives as they knew it. As a result, Illinois provided mental health crisis counseling, assessments and referrals, and emotional support assistance to hundreds of guests through a number of ongoing activities that allowed the State to individually reach out to thousands of evacuees to make sure their needs were being taken care of. Elements of the first phase were still implemented during the second phase.
Hundreds of families and individuals have benefited from the help given by the State of Illinois. Evacuees who lost all hope when they saw everything they’ve worked for washed away by the floods now have a new optimistic view of the future. Many people have received job training and are currently working, found affordable housing, and their children are receiving an education.
“I am proud of the work we’ve done so far to help assist those who were impacted by Hurricane Katrina,” said Secretary Adams. “Now, three years later, we have helped hundreds of families gain stability and are ready to focus on their and their families’ future here in Illinois.”
The agency 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 to offer continuous assistance for those who came to the state in FEMA-sponsored flights or managed to arrive in Illinois on their own.
To date, Illinois has served over 3,000 individuals through IKARE and currently, more than 6,000 evacuees still live in Illinois.