FRESNO, California—When Fresno’s mayor decided to travel to Louisiana and invite 400 hurricane evacuees to relocate in California’s rural Central Valley, other local officials begged him to reconsider.
Mayor Alan Autry’s grand gesture seemed impractical at best—with a quarter of the population in poverty, the unemployment rate set to rise as the fall harvest ends, and 2,000 Hmong refugees still to settle.
County supervisors warned that the city—not the county—would have to pay for their support. But Autry pressed ahead, paying for the trip himself and vowing to get money for hurricane refugees from church groups.
“We are all Americans,” Autry said while in Louisiana. “If something happens like this, you put a map of the U.S. up there, and erase all the state lines.”
Still, several other communities share Fresno’s worries.
A September 22 poll conducted by Ipsos, an international polling company, showed that 44 percent of Americans with hurricane evacuees settling in their communities are concerned about the cost of providing education, housing and other services. About one in four respondents were worried about increased crime and job availability.
Cities and counties nationwide already lack the resources needed to offer affordable housing to their constituents, said Linda Couch, director of the National Low Income Housing Coalition in Washington, D.C.
The largest cities have tens of thousands on waiting lists for public housing assistance, including 30,000 in Washington, D.C., 250,000 in New York and 85,000 In Los Angeles, according to a survey the coalition did last year.