The Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) is looking to acquire more than 8,900 travel trailers in Florida to be used as temporary housing for Hurricane Charley victims.
Dealerships such as Lazydays RV Superstore, Seffner, and Mark’s RVs in Fort Myers are involved in relief efforts, along with several OEMs, including: Fleetwood Enterprises Inc., Riverside, Calif., Forest River Inc., Elkhart, Ind., Gulf Stream Inc., Nappanee, Ind., Thor’s Keystone RV Co., Goshen Ind., and Coachmen Recreational Vehicle Co. LLC, Elkhart.
Both manufacturers and retailers are scrambling to parlay existing inventory along with new specially manufactured, stripped-down units for use as temporary housing for homeless storm victims.
“We are providing travel trailers to various locations where they designate,” said Chris Morse, general manager of Mark’s RV. “We’ve sent out 135 units more or less. Almost all of our trailer inventory is gone. We will be bringing in trailers from another lot in Greenfield, Ind. In addition to that, we’ve got support from Coachmen RV, and Jayco is involved to a minor extent.”
A Coachman spokesman said that three dealers – Mark’s RV, Giant Recreation World, with three Florida locations, and Midstate RV, Byron, Ga. – have delivered 209 units to FEMA from existing inventory. Jeff Babcock, who’s in charge of sales for Forest River, said the company has committed to building 900 units for FEMA in five of its factories over the next two weeks.
A spokesman for Fleetwood declined to provide specifics about the company’s arrangement with FEMA other than to confirm that one existed. “We will see some business as the result of FEMA’s requirements,” said Dan Martin, Fleetwood vice president of sales and service.
FEMA spokesman James McIntrye in Orlando said the estimate that more than 8,900 trailers will be needed came from Florida officials following a survey of families displaced by the Aug. 13 storm.
“That is what the state has identified as their housing needs for trailers,” McIntrye said. “We are still in the procurement process. There have been some placements.”
Stewart Schaeffer, Lazydays’ chief marketing officer, said that through Tuesday (Aug. 24), the nation’s largest single-location dealership had delivered 54 travel trailers to FEMA. He also confirmed that an unspecified number of stripped-down trailers – units without markings or holding tanks, but equipped with residential refrigerators – had been ordered from manufacturers.
“FEMA has been dealing primarily on a 24-hour request basis,” Schaeffer said. “They put out the word about what they want and we have 24 hours to respond. We don’t know how many they are going to want from us. I wish we could predict.”
Travel trailers purchased by FEMA are being distributed to campgrounds in proximity to areas that were devastated by Hurricane Charley.
Stay-N-Play RV Resort in Nokomis, located on the Gulf Coast north of Fort Myers, confirmed that around 300 travel trailers had been shipped there and that FEMA was directing displaced families to the park.
The resort, owned by Jacques Clutier, had been closed for over a year while management was acquiring permits for reconstruction. It was not damaged in the hurricane.
Enchanted Grove Mobile Home Park, located just west of Orlando in Lake Wales, also received travel trailers from FEMA. “We’ve had about 60 travel trailers come in since last Friday (Aug. 20),” said office worker Diane Miolen. “FEMA is handling all the arrangements. They send us a FAX, and then they contact the people.”
Meanwhile, we’re told, damages in Florida is such that Foremost Insurance Group, Grand Rapids, Mich., has extended all payment deadlines for customers in 25 Florida counties affected by Hurricane Charley. “We want to alleviate some of the stress our customers are facing as a result of Charley,” said Connie Nielsen-Bunn, Foremost account services manager.