FEMA-Built Travel Trailer Sites Closed
Before June 1 Deadline
BILOXI, Miss. – Nearly three years after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, a portion of the federal temporary housing mission has come to an end. Thirty-four of the forty-two temporary housing sites built by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at the height of disaster recovery operations were closed as of May 16, 2008.
FEMA continues to relocate families to safer and more secure housing. The deadline for federal housing assistance remains until March 1, 2009, said Sid Melton, director of FEMA’s Mississippi Transitional Recovery Office.
Through a concerted effort by volunteer agencies, the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency (MEMA), the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and FEMA Individual Assistance, approximately 1,063 families have moved from temporary housing units in the closed FEMA sites.
Eight mobile home FEMA-built sites remain open and FEMA expects them to be closed by year’s end. More than 6,400 families still occupy temporary housing units. More than 75% of those units are located on the private property of families rebuilding their homes.
“The June 1st date was our deadline to relocate families living in FEMA travel trailers in the temporary housing sites. With the help of various organizations, we’ve done that but we will not stop here. We still have a lot of work to do,” said Melton.
“Our mission remains helping families leave temporary housing and achieve permanency in a safer, more secure living environment. We’re using several different avenues of assistance including our Voluntary Agency Liaisons (VAL).”
FEMA VAL provides a key link between FEMA applicants and local voluntary agencies or Long Term Recovery Committees, often easing the transition from FEMA assistance to voluntary agency aid. FEMA recently granted additional funding for Long Term Recovery Committees through its Cora Brown Fund. The funds will allow much-need case management services to continue.
VAL also has held 15 Helping Hands Workshops along the Mississippi Gulf Coast. The workshops assemble a panel of participants who offer resources to assist occupants in their recovery. The next workshop will be held in June; more details to follow.
“We understand different counties face different housing challenges; every county differs,” said Melton. “That’s why we continue to use every resource available to us to address those various challenges.”
FEMA has additional programs available to assist occupants in their transition from temporary housing to permanent housing. Occupants who have questions about available assistance should speak with their FEMA Housing Advisor or contact the Mississippi Maintenance Applicant Support Call Center at 866-877-6075.
The Disaster Housing Assistance Program (DHAP) is a pilot federal housing assistance grant program recently implemented by HUD and FEMA. DHAP will extend rental coverage for families displaced by Katrina by providing temporary rent subsidies for non-HUD assisted individuals and families. The DHAP is administered by Public Housing Agencies (PHA) that are currently administering a housing choice voucher program.
The DHAP Disaster Rent Subsidy Contract, an agreement between the PHA and the owner of a unit, ensures that families receiving assistance under the DHAP comply with family obligations during their participation in the program. The program, which operates until March 1, 2009, will give displaced families more time to rebuild their lives. The DHAP, established through an interagency agreement between HUD and FEMA, will be vital for helping families in their personal recovery and achieve self-sufficiency.
HUD has established a call center for DHAP applicants and landlords interested in participating in DHAP. Interested parties can contact the DHAP Call Center at 866-373-9509.
At this point in the federal housing assistance effort, occupants may transition directly into DHAP. FEMA Individual Assistance teams will refer occupants to DHAP and assist families in creating a transition packet. A FEMA-HUD liaison will review the packet and close the transitional process.
“We’re making every effort to find alternative solutions. But we need help from the occupants; help us help you,” said Melton.
The Mississippi Alternative Housing Program has helped more than 2,500 families transition from FEMA temporary housing into a Mississippi Cottage. The Mississippi Alternative Housing Program is the result of a $280 million federal grant awarded to Mississippi. The goals of the program are to develop and evaluate safer and more comfortable alternatives to current disaster housing units for future disasters. MEMA is administering the 24-month long program.
In February, FEMA officials reiterated FEMA’s commitment to assisting families in their personal recovery and ramped up efforts to relocate temporary housing occupants into more permanent housing.
“Nearly all of the families that have requested relocation due to health, safety or special needs concerns have been relocated,” said Melton. “If occupants have health-related concerns about their occupied unit, they can still request a formaldehyde test. Testing is ongoing; we’re still relocating families.”
FEMA coordinates the federal government’s role in preparing for, preventing, mitigating the effects of, responding to, and recovering from all domestic disasters, whether natural or man-made, including acts of terror.
Disaster recovery assistance is available without regard to race, color, religion, nationality, sex, age, disability, English proficiency or economic status. If you or someone you know has been discriminated against, call FEMA toll-free at 800-621-FEMA (3362). For TTY call 800-462-7585.