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More than 10 months after the first of four hurricanes struck Florida, the number of families living in travel trailers and mobile homes provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has dropped from a peak of 16,000 to below 10,000.
According to a report in the Charlotte Sun Herald, even though the numbers are dropping, local and federal officials admit it will be a difficult task to get everyone into permanent housing quickly.
“The clock is ticking very fast and we need to move forward on this now,” said Charlotte County Hurricane Recovery Director Bob Hebert.
FEMA established temporary home sites across the state to help during the housing crisis created by the hurricanes.
The number of Floridians living in FEMA-provided housing is below the 10,000 mark for the first time since reaching a high of more than 16,000. As of last week, only 9,721 housing units are occupied.
Based on a FEMA formula of 2.5 occupants per trailer, there are an estimated 24,300 people still living in temporary housing.
Charlotte County is working closely with FEMA officials to develop a strategy to identify the people who need help, placing them into clearly defined and manageable categories.
Categories include people who were previously living in affordable housing and cannot move back until the housing is rebuilt.
“We know we can help this group as soon as we can rebuild (the affordable housing that) was lost, but that is going to take time,” Hebert said. “Time is against us right now.”
People living in FEMA trailers must find housing within 18 months or face possible eviction.
Hebert said he hopes that does not happen, but the county and FEMA are both interested in getting people into permanent housing as soon as possible.
FEMA has a group of 120 advisers dedicated to finding permanent housing solutions for residents throughout the state.