The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has forged a partnership with the nation’s mayors and county officials to identify thousands of temporary homes for families displaced by Hurricane Katrina, HUD said Wednesday.

Initially, HUD identified nearly 3,200 vacant single-family HUD-owned properties in five states near the affected areas, the department said.

In addition, public housing authorities within a 500-mile radius of New Orleans have about 5,600 vacant units that could be made available to public housing residents forced to evacuate their homes, according to HUD.

With the help of the U.S. Conference of Mayors and the National Association of Counties, HUD anticipates thousands of additional homes may be available.

HUD and the two other agencies are encouraging local officials at every level to inventory their vacant housing stock to identify properties that might provide temporary housing for those dislocated from their homes.

“Having a roof over your head is one of the most basic human needs,” said HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson. “I can assure you that together with our local partners, we’re working overtime to make certain every available home will be offered to families who may have lost everything.”

Immediately after the hurricane, Jackson contacted the two agencies to seek their support in identifying vacant homes and apartments that might temporarily house displaced persons and families. The response has been overwhelming, according to HUD.

For example, HUD said, Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and Philadelphia Mayor John Street are each offering more than 1,000 homes. Chicago Mayor Richard Daley is offering a minimum of 885 units capable of housing an estimated 1,500 persons, according to HUD.

Local leaders in Allegheny County, Pa., are offering to assist 1,000 displaced persons find temporary housing, and Miami-Dade County is offering to house another 3,000 people, the department said.

“The nation’s mayors stand ready to help in any way possible in this time of urgent need,” said Beverly O’Neill, U.S. Conference of Mayors president and mayor of Long Beach, Calif.

“Mayors from all over the country are galvanizing to identify housing to relocate the hundreds of thousands of people who will need it. But we don’t intend to stop there. We are willing to do whatever it takes to save lives and help cities rebuild.”

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Send tips or a Letter to the Editor to janis@inman.com or call (510) 658-9252, ext. 140.

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