March 24, 2006
Houston Grows Weary of Katrina Evacuees: Poll
HOUSTON -- People in Houston welcomed tens of thousands of New Orleans evacuees in the days after Hurricane Katrina but now sound as if they would like to see the newcomers go home, according to a poll published on Friday.
The survey, conducted by Rice University sociologist Stephen Klineberg and published in the Houston Chronicle, found that 76 percent of respondents believe the 150,000 evacuees have put a big strain on the city. Sixty-six percent blame the evacuees for an increase in violent crime.
Asked if Houston would be better off if the evacuees stayed, 49 percent said no, 23 percent said yes and 28 percent said they did not know.
While Houstonians may now be weary of the evacuees, they were proud the city helped them as they fled floodwaters that inundated 80 percent of New Orleans in the aftermath of the August 29 storm.
Klineberg said 97 percent of those questioned agreed that the city "really came together" to help their Louisiana neighbors.
Sentiment has turned against the evacuees partly because of an increase in violent crime that accompanied their arrival, local officials said.
Police said a spate of murders at the end of 2005 was the result of New Orleans gang wars that moved to Houston with the evacuees.
Mayor Bill White, who spearheaded the operation to help Katrina victims, has pledged to bring the criminals to justice and has been quick to defend the vast majority of evacuees as good citizens.
Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector Paul Bettencourt said the evacuees had brought some economic benefits to Houston. Sales tax receipts have shown double-digit increases, housing prices are up and evacuees have attracted $150 million in loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration, he told the Chronicle.
The poll of 765 people was conducted in late February and has a margin of error of plus-or-minus 3.5 percent.