Many hurricane-displaced people living in a federally run travel trailer park in Alabama feel that recently heightened security measures have made the park an anxious and intimidating place to live, according to the Mobile Press-Register.
Security guards and residents said that the new rules at Zirlott Park in Bayou La Bartre require residents to meet family and friends outside the gates of the community.
“We are not running Zirlott Park like a prison. Nor are we trying to force people to leave,” said Lynne Keating, a spokeswoman for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which has operated the park since two months after Hurricane
Katrina made landfall Aug. 29. “This is a government-developed site for hurricane survivors who can expect some measure of safety and privacy,” Keating said.
She said the new security measures are not unreasonable, and that they are intended to protect residents and their privacy.
“It’s like a private, gated community, now,” Keating said.
But she refused to provide a copy of the park’s security policy, saying it was an “internal FEMA document.”
Residents, however, say family and friends have been prevented from entering the park, meaning that visitors must be received outside the park’s 8-foot tall chain link fence.
“I think they’re just trying to make it hard on us so that we’ll leave sooner,” said Wesley Johnson, 22, who lives in a three-room trailer with his wife and 1-year-old daughter.
More-stringent security rules have been enforced since the first week of April, FEMA officials said. They were implemented in response to drug and prostitution problems at the park, they said. Two families were evicted last year when police found they were cooking methamphetamine in their trailers, Bayou La Batre police said.
FEMA officials announced last month the park would be closed June 1, but later said there would be no specific closure date.