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Two months after the fact, many Southeast Texans are still living in tents in their yards from the devastation of Hurricane Ike.
The Port Arthur News reported that R. David Paulison, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), held a press conference at the FEMA Area Field Office in Beaumont Thursday (Nov. 5) afternoon to discuss area housing needs.
Paulison announced he could not in good conscience place people into travel trailers knowing they may contain formaldehyde. Instead, the federal agency opted to go with a mobile home and/or an apartment program.
He said placing the mobile homes on some residents’ lots is a problem and FEMA is trying to get them in place as quickly as possible.
“It’s our number one priority,” Paulison said. “We’re giving our people all the tools we need. This is serious and we’re going to make sure it happens. I understand some people don’t want to leave home. There are apartments available, but some say they are too far away. We want to work with the people who want to stay at home.”
Paulison admitted since there is a shortage of apartments available in the Golden Triangle, the closest available units are in the Houston area. He added the mobile home program is now “clicking” in spite of a slow start with 92 set up yesterday.
“We’re going door to door to ask people if they need help. We’re getting the mobile homes up as fast as possible and we’ll continue at that pace until we’re finished,” Paulison said. “We now have 850 on the ground with a hundred more everyday in two months. We’re going as fast as they are delivered here. Everybody wants it yesterday. It’s difficult to make it happen.”
Paulison said FEMA strike teams are on the ground, locating sites for the mobile homes in the area. Entergy representatives are assisting these teams to help with utility connections.
One reporter asked what could have been done differently. Paulison said FEMA depended strictly on the travel trailer program until it wasn’t feasible and switched to the mobile homes and apartments.
Another reporter asked if a hurricane hit tomorrow, what would FEMA do differently. Paulison said they would probably ensure the travel trailers are formaldehyde free.
“There’s no excuses; it should had happened faster. We’ll have more meetings (media press conferences) in the future,” he said.