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The National Disaster Housing Strategy (the Strategy) serves two purposes. First, it describes how we as a Nation currently provide housing to those affected by disasters. It summarizes, for the first time in a single document, the many sheltering and housing efforts we have in the United States and the broad array of organizations that are involved in managing these programs. The Strategy also outlines the key principles and policies that guide the disaster housing process. Second, and more importantly, the Strategy charts the new direction that our disaster housing efforts must take if we are to better meet the emergent needs of disaster victims and communities. Today we face a wider range of hazards and potentially catastrophic events than we have ever faced before. These include terrorist attacks and major natural disasters that could destroy large sections of the Nation's infrastructure. This new direction must address the disaster housing implications of all these risks and hazards and, at the same time, guide development of essential, baseline capabilities to overcome existing limitations. The new direction for disaster housing must leverage emerging technologies and new approaches in building design to provide an array of housing options. It must also be cost effective and draw on lessons learned and best practices. Above all, this new direction must institutionalize genuine collaboration and cooperation among the various local, State, tribal, and Federal partners, nongovernmental organizations, and the private sector to meet the needs of all disaster victims. Current practices in disaster housing vary based on the nature and scope of a disaster and can range from providing short-term shelters to arranging temporary and, in some cases, permanent housing. Establishing emergency shelters is generally a well-choreographed effort that unfolds smoothly at the local level as emergency management officials and nongovernmental organizations execute their emergency plans. The challenges increase when disaster victims are displaced from their homes for longer periods of time and temporary housing must be provided. The process of meeting individual and household needs becomes more challenging, and the responsibilities and roles of those involved must be absolutely clear. States monitor and support local government efforts and activate their capabilities as needed to augment local capabilities. The Federal Government stands alongside the States as an engaged partner, maintaining disaster housing resources and ready to deploy those resources, if required, to fill any emerging gap. While this process generally works very well, it broke down in August 2005 when Hurricane Katrina struck the coast of Louisiana and Mississippi and overwhelmed the capabilities of responders at all jurisdictional levels. And now, more than 3 years after Hurricane Katrina, we are still wrestling with many technical and policy issues related to disaster housing that Katrina brought to light. This Strategy outlines a vision, supported by specific goals, that will point the Nation in a new direction to meet the disaster housing needs of individuals and communities.
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