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6citooft? 01,0 Ettxr AMOINERINA her TIVIIPOlb Pifer! ,99600fLifneffiFt.. PO C:0 I “7” I fo CZ+ gone, and the much-promised disaster recovery efforts have hardly touched hard-hit poor areas of the island like the North Side. “It’s still the same,” Burkley says. “I can’t put a hundred people together at no time.” The neighborhood school has closed, the public housing projects have been condemned, and the island’s storm-battered rental homes sit mostly unoccupied. Islandwide, population is down 30 to 40 percent, officials estimate, based on water usage. Hurricane Ike unleashed punishment on the whole island without regard to social station or income, but those already living on society’s margins are struggling most in the aftermath. Ted Hanley, executive director of the Jesse Tree, a faith-based social services organization, says public housing residents and those “marginally homeless or homeless before the storm” are in a particularly precarious condition. “Our entire infrastructure for handling that population is dismantled,” he says. “It is a very vulnerable population elderly, mentally ill, substance abusers, people who are not good self-advocates. And the process for getting housing is not easy; it’s daunting.” The federal program designed to ease housing woes, the Disaster Housing Assistance Program, hasn’t been notably helpful. According to the Galveston Housing Authority, only 26 percent of eligible families have found a place to live. Many, if not most, low-income Galvestonians don’t have a place to come home to. Four of the island’s six public housing projects are still closed, their former occupants scattered mostly to the mainland. The housing authority decided in late January that two of the complexes would be razed and eventually replaced, but not for at least two years. The other two will be renovated, and people allowed to move back, sometime this year. Renters have been sidelined, too. The lion’s share of relief aid, so far, has been earmarked for homeowners, though threequarters of Galveston’s population rented before the storm. The same pattern will likely prevail for the $814 million in fresh federal aid slated for the Houston-Galveston region. “I’m just frightened by the overwhelming number of poor people who will be ineligible for that funding,” Hanley says. Five months after Ike, Burkley worries that decision-makers have forgotten about those Galvestonians without money or power. “It’s heartbreaking because I didn’t think Texas would do this,” he says. Forrest Wilder FEBRUARY 20, 2009 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 7