[StBernard] Families remain on FEMA trailer group sites past deadline

Westley Annis westley at da-parish.com
Wed Apr 30 22:08:24 EDT 2008

Families remain on FEMA trailer group sites past deadline
by Ramon Antonio Vargas, The Times-Picayune
Wednesday April 30, 2008, 10:41 AM
As the Federal Emergency Management Agency's self-imposed deadline for
moving residents out of the last six group trailer sites in Orleans and
Jefferson parishes arrived today, FEMA officials said that 47 families
remained at the locations but were close to vacating the trailers.

Agency spokesman Andrew Thomas said FEMA will place the family members
remaining at the sites in permanent housing by May 5, in most cases in

Four families will vacate today, after the agency conducts a routine
move-out inspection, and 15 families will vacate tomorrow, according to
Thomas. One will move Thursday, while others will be out of their trailers
by May 5.

The families occupied trailer lots at Louis Armstrong International Airport,
the Apostolic Outreach Center in Gentilly, Canal Street 1 and 2 in New
Orleans, the Ideal Place Playground in Gentilly and at two sites near the
French Quarter, the KW Esplanade Property and the Cultural Arts Center
Overflow Parking lot.

"No one has ever been known to be made homeless by FEMA, and housing has
been found for all these families," Thomas said. "We wanted to move them
into permanent structures because it's safer and definitely better for the

The April 30 deadline was meant to aid agency efforts to have all families
in the state of Louisiana living in trailers out of them by June 1, a
deadline basically dictated to FEMA because of two main concerns.

For one, many feel trailers would be unsafe during high winds and
hurricanes. Second, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study in
February found that many of the trailers had dangerously high levels of
formaldehyde, a chemical that can cause respiratory problems and that is a
suspected cause of cancer.

FEMA has typically tried to secure housing in apartments and rental houses
for families that have been living in government trailers. As a last resort,
agency case workers may turn to hotel rooms, but Thomas said they try to
avoid that option because it doesn't provide a lasting solution.

"We still have families with needs, and we're going to meet them," Thomas

Though families will still occupy trailers in the officially shut down sites
for another week, Thomas said he is confident FEMA will have their housing
situations resolved soon. He pointed to the fact that on November 26, 2007,
11,000 Orleans Parish families remained in trailers on private, commercial
and group sites. By Wednesday, the agency had shaved that number to 5,814.

However, not all are happy with the solution the agency provides. FEMA's
efforts do get people into permanent housing, but sometimes they end up in
other parts of the Gulf Coast.

In a letter he sent to President Bush in late February, Mayor Ray Nagin
criticized those plans, saying moving New Orleans trailer residents away
could cause a loss of needed workers, thus hurting the city's tax base and
harming the city's economy.

"We place people where they want to be, if it's viable," Thomas. Sometimes,
trailer residents want to return to their old communities. Other times, they
want to stay near the neighborhood the agency situated their trailer.

"FEMA's stance has been to put people where they choose to live, and we're
pretty successful at that."

Next month, FEMA is set to close nine more group sites spread throughout
Plaquemines, St. John, St. Tammany and St. Bernard parishes.

According to Thomas, 219 families still occupy group site trailers in St.
Tammany; 209 families in Plaquemines; 11 families in St. Bernard; and five
families in St. John.

More information about the StBernard mailing list