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The federal government is pushing ahead with plans to offer makeshift housing, including ordering 70,000 travel trailers from the recreational vehicle industry, to tens of thousands of Gulf Coast evacuees.
According to a report in USA Today, Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Alphonso Jackson said Tuesday (Aug. 6) that the government is cobbling together enough housing to take care of the hundreds of thousands of people who were displaced by Hurricane Katrina and have nowhere to go as they rebuild their lives.
The effort is the latest by the government, criticized for its lack of speedy response to the Katrina crisis, to address the basic needs of hurricane-battered residents.
HUD and the Federal Emergency Management Agency initially looked for temporary housing within a 500-mile range of the devastation along the Gulf Coast. The search was expanded nationwide.
FEMA spokesman James McIntyre said the agency has ordered 70,000 small recreational vehicles, each of which can sleep five. In areas without flooding, the trailers can be parked on people’s property.
In Alabama, where 2,600 trailers have arrived, people can begin moving into them today.
For those who can’t go home, FEMA will use city-owned parks or commercial land to build small temporary cities.
In some cases, FEMA may set up temporary stores for the residents. Starting Friday, McIntyre said, FEMA expects 500 trailers a day to begin arriving outside New Orleans.
The agencies also are offering space on cruise ships – 8,000 beds are available on three ships in Galveston, Texas, and Mobile, Ala. – and in apartment complexes, on military bases and elsewhere.
“We will work until we get every displaced citizen into some type of housing,” McIntyre said.
But there have been glitches along the way. The cruise ship space was offered Monday to evacuees 65 and over. By Tuesday morning, emergency workers were finding that many evacuees in shelters didn’t want to move again.
Even with the prospect of a private room and bath, people were too traumatized to move once again and be isolated on a ship, McIntyre said.
Jackson said government relief workers were bringing in ministers and local leaders to talk with evacuees and convince them that they won’t be able to return to their homes or neighborhoods any time soon and that they shouldn’t stay in warehouse-style shelters such as the Houston Astrodome for long.
“It is very difficult to convince many people in the shelter that they’re not going to be returning home very quickly,” he said. “We have to be sensitive.”