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Utah foundation creates housing, jobs in Gulf Coast

Some Mississippi Gulf Coast residents who lost their homes in Hurricane Katrina could soon have temporary housing, thanks to a Utah foundation.

Merrill Osmond, president of the Salt Lake City based-Morrell Foundation, said groundwork is under way for temporary housing in four Mississippi cities — Biloxi, Waveland, Lyman and Gautier. Each location will be able to house 1,000 people, he said.

The foundation is also ready to immediately employ as many as 2,000 displaced individuals for the construction, Osmond said.

"It's been miracle after miracle, a lot of people want to do something," he said. "We have a huge 10,000 man army on the ready."

Osmond said the foundation has already contributed $1 million to the relief effort and is trying to raise another $2 million to finish the project.

Working directly with Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour's office has avoided bureaucratic delays and speeded the process, Osmond said. Foundation Chairman Phillip L. Morrell is already working to prepare the sites in Mississippi, he said. Once the groundwork is done, the housing will take two to three weeks to construct, he said.

He described the temporary housing as hotel-like, with sectioned off areas with private bathrooms and portable kitchens.

A call to Barbour's office was not returned. However, a letter from Barbour's office on the Morrell Foundation Web site, www.morrellfoundation.com, says the governor supports the efforts.

"The Morrell Foundation will strategically go into the areas of Hurricane Katrina and immediately begin the actions necessary to place the people of the areas affected, back into their lives," the letter says.

The Morrell foundation was formed about six months ago to help in disaster relief and to employ local people in disaster areas, Osmond said.


E-mail: dbulkeley@desnews.com