Flatbet trailer extensions

FEMA Trailer Deadline Looms for Lake Charles Storm Survivors: ‘Everything Is Expensive’ | Lake Charles News

SULFUR – Roishetta Ozane knows that she and her six children will soon be forced to move, but she has no idea where they will be going.

“The rent is ridiculously high,” said the 37-year-old community activist and single mother, who has lived in a rented mobile home paid for by FEMA since May, her former home badly damaged by Hurricane Laura. “And then the unit doesn’t match the rent.”

Almost a year and a half since Laura devastated the Lake Charles area, followed six weeks later by Hurricane Delta, nearly 2,000 families remain in trailers and mobile homes provided by FEMA. But the program was always meant to be temporary, and they now face tight deadlines to relocate. The shortage of affordable housing has made the challenge more daunting.

The move date for most trailers is February 28, 18 months after Laura was declared a federal disaster, the standard rule for FEMA’s direct housing program. A much smaller number of families with mobile homes due to Delta have a few extra months.

The state has requested a six-month extension, citing the lack of available rentals and the high cost of rents, and is awaiting a response, said Mike Steele, spokesperson for the Governor’s Office for Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness. emergency.

Even if granted, it may only postpone the inevitable. The challenges families ultimately face will depend on whether the housing shortage can be at least partially resolved in hurricane-ravaged Charles Lake, regardless of what time they are forced to leave. .

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This is a problem with multiple layers. Large amounts of public housing and Section 8 have been badly damaged by storms and have yet to be repaired. This has exacerbated the existing shortage of affordable housing, due in part to an influx of temporary construction workers fueled by the expansion of industrial facilities in the region.

Long-term federal disaster relief intended in part to address the housing problem was not approved until the end of September – more than a year after Laura – and has yet to overcome bureaucratic hurdles before it can be distributed.

Even after that, state and local officials say the amount approved so far – $ 595 million for Laura, Delta, and Hurricane Zeta, which hit southeast Louisiana in October 2020 – is far from sufficient to solve the problem. Besides hurricanes, southwest Louisiana was also hit by a severe winter storm in February and flooding in May – all during the pandemic.

All of this means that the struggles of families still living in FEMA trailers are likely to persist. Some were only able to move into the trailers months or even more than a year after Laura. The last family moved in as part of the post-Laura program on September 15, according to the state’s extension request.

Some experts point to what they describe as flaws in the disaster response process.

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“Unfortunately, I think what you see in Louisiana is the same thing we see every time after a disaster, where you have a housing crisis before a disaster hits, there are already people out there who are. financial shock of losing their homes – behind on their rents – then disaster strikes, ”said Sarah Saadian, vice president of public policy for the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

“You immediately have less housing supply, with landlords raising rents, evicting people so they can raise rents for the next person, and FEMA programs that don’t adequately meet needs, especially for those who need it. low income tenants. “

“Nowhere to rent”

The primary site where the post-Laura trailers were located is the Little Lake Charles RV Park on the outskirts of town. It served as a weekend getaway or where travelers lay down for the night. A lake runs through the property and cabins are available for rent. Fishing lures are sold at reception.

But since the hurricanes, more than 200 spaces have been rented by FEMA to house storm survivors. The trailers they live in are not the white boxes that were ubiquitous after Katrina. Many are the same types of RVs that families would take on the road.

The RVs, many of which are FEMA-funded temporary homes, are pictured Wednesday, Jan.5, 2022 at the Little Lake Charles RV Resort in Lake Charles, Louisiana.

Some of those still living there said they had nowhere to go yet.

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Debra Rogers, 58, sitting outside her trailer next to her visiting daughter, praised the help her FEMA social worker provided, but said the apartments she saw were out of its price range.

“Everything is expensive,” said Rogers, who previously cleaned homes for a living, but has more recently been unable to do so due to medical issues. “The places I find cost maybe between $ 800 and $ 1,000 a month. The income I have doesn’t match that.

Those who participate in FEMA’s housing program must meet conditions to stay there, including proving that they are seeking permanent housing by providing three such referrals per month, according to residents.

“Do not sit on our hands”

Daniel Teles, an economist at the Urban Institute, pointed out “gaps in many places” with regard to post-disaster programs.

“One of them is that FEMA assistance is basically meant to be short term, and in the long term there isn’t a lot of assistance,” he said.

Most long-term disaster relief comes from federal community development grants, which must be approved by Congress. There is no guarantee both in terms of amounts and time – or even if money will be sent at all.

When it is finally approved, it tends to take years before it results in new housing, Teles said.


A FEMA notice is affixed to the door of a motorhome asking its residents to contact a counselor regarding their FEMA-funded temporary housing accommodation on Wednesday, January 5, 2022, at the Little Lake Charles RV Resort in Lake Charles, Louisiana.

Various proposals have been put forward to resolve some of these problems. Saadian pointed to a bill in the Senate, co-sponsored by a bipartisan group including Bill Cassidy, that would provide an ongoing funding process.

The NLIHC also advocates the use of the Federal Disaster Housing Assistance Program, which was used after Katrina and other storms but has not been used recently, Saadian said. The program lasts longer and provides rental assistance, she said.

Another option for some of those who live in FEMA trailers is to buy them if they qualify, but buyers will also need to find a long-term location for them.

Under FEMA rules, if an extension is granted beyond 18 months for trailers, residents would have to pay rent. However, the state has requested that this requirement also be lifted.

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The state and Lake Charles sought to do what they could while awaiting the arrival of long-term federal assistance. In November, Governor John Bel Edwards and Mayor Nic Hunter announced an $ 11.3 million housing program. This is a relatively small amount, but in part intended to show that local officials “weren’t just going to sit on our hands and wait for the federal government,” Hunter said.

Ozane lives in a larger mobile home complex in Sulfur, across the Calcasieu River from Charles Lake, near the industrial factories that dominate the area and their flares. FEMA leased units in the complex after the hurricane, and Ozane was finally able to secure one in May.

A busy community activist in addition to caring for her children, she has spent much of her time in recent months serving the needs of other families through the Vessel Project, a charity she co-founded. She is also a community organizer for the environmental organization Healthy Gulf.

She wants to move, but finding accommodation large enough for her family has been difficult.

“Do you think people honestly want to continue to stay in these FEMA trailers? ” she said. “I have six children. This is a three bedroom. My daughter is sleeping on the sofa. Why wouldn’t I deliberately try to find something big enough for me and all of my kids? “

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