University of Michigan Creates National Housing Portal for Evacuees

ANN ARBOR, Mich.
Officials with the School of Information at the University of Michigan have launched a Web site that provides a comprehensive housing search function for those displaced by Hurricane Katrina. The site, <www.katrinahousing.net>, will list about 375,000 beds in all 50 states, making it the single largest known list of homes for hurricane evacuees.
Thousands of Americans across the country are offering spare rooms, motor homes and empty apartments to Hurricane Katrina victims. But relief organizations using the Internet to locate temporary shelter must sort through hundreds of Web sites and thousands of postings to track down the offers.

UM officials say the site aggregates housing offers from a variety of Internet sites, thus streamlining the search significantly. A robust searching capability on www.Katrinahousing.net makes it possible to look for housing on a state and community basis. The site identifies the number of units available in each community and provides a means to
contact those who are making the offer. 

The site is intended to provide relief workers the capacity to match groups of Katrina victims with communities that can offer housing and appropriate services. In addition, individuals may use the Web site to seek out their own housing. Communities will also be able to learn who else is offering housing so that volunteers can better coordinate efforts locally.

“The site will remain useful as long as people need temporary or semi-permanent housing,” says Dr. Margaret Hedstrom, a University of Michigan faculty member, “so we expect our cadre of volunteers to grow.”

Katrinahousing.net is the work of at least 55 School of Information volunteers, who have logged nearly 1,000 hours to create the site since the first call for help went out on Sept. 1. The volunteers have used e-mail, cell phones, teleconferencing, instant messaging and other collaboration technologies to coordinate their work.

UM officials say the site also offers links to organizations that are compiling offers of housing, so people who have housing to offer can go to www.Katrinahousing.net and find a list of placement organizations and Web sites to post offers.



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