July 8th, 2006


Getting Fed Up In Houston?

HOUSTON - In the middle of a Tuesday afternoon, Katrina evacuee Samuel Smith sits on a donated futon and watches a borrowed television in a subsidized apartment the Federal Emergency Management Agency has provided for six months. The unemployed truck driver just started looking for work. That would infuriate U.S. Rep. John Culberson, a Houston Republican who wants what he calls "deadbeat" evacuees from New Orleans out of his city. "Time has long since passed for the able-bodied people from Louisiana to either find a job, return to somewhere in Louisiana or become Houstonians," said Culberson, whose district neighbors the city's southwest pocket where many of 150,000 Hurricane Katrina evacuees settled in Houston.

"You have to make an effort not to have a job in Houston," he said.

Labor analysts tend to agree.

But jobless evacuees, keenly aware that Houston is feeling far less compassionate than it was 10 months ago, insist that finding work in the nation's fourth-largest city isn't as simple as Houston's 5 percent unemployment rate might suggest. Neither the city nor FEMA track unemployed evacuees, but a Zogby poll commissioned by the city in March found that 85 percent of the 606 refugees surveyed were out of work. Sixty percent said they were looking for jobs.

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