Longtime residents of government housing in Florida have a message for people moving into trailer cities in Louisiana: Be patient, be prepared to jump through hoops and do your best to make your temporary home feel like your old one. And, finally: Get out as quickly as you can.
According to an article in The Advocate, Baton Rouge, many evacuees from Hurricane Ivan, which hit the Gulf Coast’s Panhandle in September of last year, are still living in housing provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
The paper reported that 80 families still remain in Devin Circle, a trailer community on the eastern edge of Pensacola. At one time, the park was home to around 9,000 families.
Three weeks after Ivan, the first travel-trailer facilities began to pop up. FEMA Public Information Officer Karen Szulczewski said the agency has tried to find housing for displaced Ivan victims close to their damaged homes and near bus lines, grocery stores and other amenities.
But park residents complain of a lack of transportation, especially since they aren’t within walking distance of food stores, coin-operated laundries and other services. Other residents reported crime and other incidents that make them feel unsafe.
Most are nonetheless grateful for the assistance. While many are eager to get out, some would like to stay – the housing is rent-free, and in a few cases is better than what people lived in before the storms.
But Devin Circle isn’t meant to last much longer. FEMA can provide housing for 18 months after a disaster, Szulczewski said. The deadline to find permanent housing is March 16, and some residents worry they will end up on the streets on that date.
“We just closed one of our group sites, so it is becoming more and more a reality to them,” Szulczewski said.
FEMA looks at what families were paying in rent before the storm and expects them to find something in a similar price range afterwards, she said.
Such housing has been hard to come by. Even before Ivan, affordable housing was scarce in the area, officials say.
The same cycle has now started in Louisiana as FEMA is establishing similar parks in Baton Rouge and other areas in the state.