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New Orleans Hotel Evicts 100 Katrina Victims

A judge blocked the eviction Saturday of about 100 people from a New Orleans hotel, which had ordered tenants displaced by Hurricane Katrina to move out to make room for new guests.

Orleans Parish Civil District Court Judge Michael Bagneris issued a restraining order and ruled that the hurricane victims be allowed to return, said Bill Quigley, head of the Loyola Law Clinic who sought the order.

The Maison St. Charles manager Emily Wright did not return calls Saturday seeking comment.

Some tenants said they got their eviction notices Monday, the day the Federal Emergency Management Agency announced it would continue to pay for hotel rooms housing hurricane victims while it ironed out issues arising from a class-action lawsuit.

Wright told The Times-Picayune the hotel had planned on the Katrina victims leaving by the initial federal cut-off of Jan. 7, and it needed to make room for guests who had reserved rooms months earlier. "I feel like we have to honor those contracts," she said Friday.

Hotels' participation in housing hurricane victims is voluntary, FEMA spokesman James McIntyre said. "We have no legal authority to have the hotel discontinue its standard business practices," he said. "We will work to assist people who have been evicted."

Some people found other rooms.

Velma Lewis, 41, said that after calling dozens of other hotels, she and her daughter finally found one with a room available for FEMA vouchers.

"We started loading up this morning. We came back ... and they had locked us out of the room," she said. The managers let them retrieve their remaining belongings, she said.

Pauline Powell, 58, and her daughter had no luck finding another place, and no car to get anywhere.

"I'm stuck with her stuff out here in the street and my stuff too," she said. "And nowhere to go."

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