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The government is acquiring temporary homes for victims of Hurricane Katrina far faster than it can distribute and fill them, with more than 9,000 campers and mobile homes now parked and empty at staging areas awaiting delivery to families left homeless by the storm.
According to the Associated Press, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) says a backlog was inevitable. Representatives said there are just so many roads, cleared lots and transport trucks available to haul units to families living in tents or other shelters on the coasts of Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama.
But the delays are frustrating to storm victims who are tired of waiting for the government to fulfill promises of housing six weeks after the storm.
“We applied for (a) FEMA trailer, but we have no result yet,” said Ben Truong, 34, who is living with his elderly parents, aunt and a couple of dogs on their shrimp boat docked on the bay at Biloxi, Miss. “You just want to pull out your hair.”
The government ordered around 125,000 campers and mobile homes for use as temporary housing after Katrina, FEMA spokesman James McIntyre said Tuesday. About 6,716 of the travel trailers, already are occupied in the three states hit by the storm.
But no one is living in FEMA mobile homes, even though 239 are ready for occupancy and another 2,514 are stored at staging sites in Selma, Ala., Purvis, Miss., Baton Rouge, La., and Texarkana, Texas, according to McIntyre.
Another 6,497 travel trailers are parked at the same staging sites awaiting delivery, he said. In Selma, row after row of the white campers fill a grassy field as trucks pull new ones onto the lot, about 180 miles north of the devastated Gulf Coast.
McIntyre said no mobile homes are occupied because they require more space and permits from local officials, whom he said are directing federal employees when it comes to determining who gets the first homes.
“There’s a screening process. The governor’s office and the state determine priorities, and we place (families) according to those priorities,” he said.
Campers are easier to dole out, McIntyre said, but long waits are impossible to overcome. He compared the process of waiting for a trailer to standing in line: people at the front get served quickest.