Fairfax County has granted contracts worth $276,400 to three local nonprofit organizations to coordinate assistance for the estimated 1,500 Hurricane Katrina evacuees in the county.
Officials say they believe that Fairfax has the most evacuees in the region, though there is no official tally. Fairfax officials said they want to help evacuees settle in the area if they wish, sort through their options and deal with a trauma that has transformed their lives.
"They've lost their communities, their houses, their jobs and split off from their families," said Mary Agee, chief executive of Northern Virginia Family Service. The Oakton-based social services organization received a $131,000 contract to be the lead agency in coordinating case management.
The effort is part of the Fairfax Families Care Initiative, a regional coalition of government, school, business and civic leaders that are combining their resources to offer long-term assistance to evacuees.
The coalition has set an initial goal of finding 200 jobs and 100 housing units and accommodating 400 schoolchildren.
County spokeswoman Merni Fitzgerald said the contracts are designed to help displaced families move past the immediate relief phase and into a second phase during which they begin to think about their futures as their communities are rebuilt.
Each nonprofit organization that received a contract is assigning social workers to help evacuees find housing and jobs and to assist them with settling their children in school and coping with the long-term impact of their flight from the Gulf Coast.
According to a recent count, 167 children displaced by the hurricane are enrolled in Fairfax County schools. Prince George's County, with 176, has the most evacuee students in the area.
United Community Ministries, which received a $70,400 contract, will work with evacuees in southeastern Fairfax County. Reston Interfaith got a $75,000 contract and will work with families in northwestern Fairfax.
Several dozen evacuee families have been referred to Reston Interfaith, said Kerrie Wilson, its executive director.
She said the group's social workers plan to help displaced families sort through the numerous offers of aid that have come from throughout the county and assist them as they decide whether to settle in the Washington area or to return to the Gulf Coast.
Fitzgerald said the county expects to be reimbursed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency for the contracts.
Evacuees needing additional information or people wishing to offer assistance can call the Hurricane Katrina hotline at 703-817-7771 or TTY 711, or visit www.fairfaxcounty.gov.