HomeLife Communities marketing director Anitra Brenden sat in her Mesa office Friday and waited for the phone to ring.
Her company has a new four-bedroom house available for the first suitable family that steps forward from the Hurricane Katrina disaster area. And the deal is sweet.
The family can live in the furnished home free for one year in Maricopa, or choose a similar house in Buckeye. HomeLife Communities will pay all utilities, taxes and insurance. And the company will offer a permanent, fulltime job to the head of household.
Bashas’ grocers, meanwhile, will stock the cupboards with nonperishable food items and provide $1,000 for future grocery shopping. A new or used car might also come with the package.
But so far, Brenden has encountered nothing but red tape.
She called the Arizona chapter of the American Red Cross on Tuesday to announce the offer, and a volunteer in Phoenix told her to call the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
"But there’s no calling FEMA," Brenden said. "Nobody’s answering the phone."
So the Red Cross next referred her to the Arizona Department of Emergency Management. She called on Tuesday and again on Wednesday and was told the housing offer would be entered into a computer database. A volunteer said somebody from the state would keep her informed.
When nobody called her back Thursday, she took her story to the media.
Eventually, a reporter contacted Jeff Gray at the Arizona Department of Housing. He said the offer from HomeLife Communities — which was news to him — will be circulated among the Katrina evacuees starting Monday.
"It takes longer than just one day to get somebody placed into a home," he said.
And that’s under ideal circumstances. Gray said his department has been overwhelmed by generous housing offers from across the state.
"Arizona has been very giving," he said. "It’s been hard to keep up with the offers. It’s gotten to the point where it’s even hard to count them all."
Brenden said she will be waiting. "All we want to do is help a family out," she said.