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Katrina evacuees lodge housing complaints

They're part of the biggest, one-time "guest list" in the hotel business — Katrina evacuees. Ten states have at least 1,000 hotel rooms rented, while six of them have at least 10,000. And guess who's picking up the tab? NBC's Carl Quintanilla reports.

It's another bus ride home for 6-year-old Erielle Jackson, who has lived with her family for five weeks at Atlanta's AmeriSuites Hotel.

"You're not looking for a handout, you know, somebody to give you something just because, but you do need a little help," says New Orleans evacuee Daphne Valtreaux.

They're part of the biggest one-time "guest list" in the hotel business. Ten states have at least 1,000 rooms rented, while six of them have at least 10,000. And it's all costing FEMA an estimated $11 million every night.

"I think they're making a mistake, not just because it's expensive but because a hotel just isn't a good place to live," says Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass.

Here's the problem: FEMA promised it would help empty out emergency shelters. And it has — from 273,000 after Katrina to just 22,000 now. But instead of putting evacuees in large communities of temporary, mobile homes — nicknamed "FEMAvilles" — the agency backed off, citing resistance from local residents.

That means Jackie and Gary Hughes, who are still living at a Hampton Inn in Texas, will have to choose between spending their FEMA assistance on a new apartment or supplies.

"We have to buy clothes, medicine, you know, I'm not working, I don't have any insurance right now," says Gary.

FEMA officials say the average room rate, $59, is no higher than the one they paid following Hurricane Charlie last year. And that they're trying to help evacuees move on.

"Right now, being in a shelter, or being in a hotel, is somewhat a bridge to nowhere," says Coast Guard Vice Adm. Thad Allen, the man in charge of the federal response to Katrina.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is also under pressure to supply more prepaid housing vouchers to evacuees.

"HUD's role should be to help people find housing," says Rep. Frank.

That would give families like the Hugheses, who visited a housing fair Thursday, a chance to check out of the hotels that have become home.