t doesn’t matter though that FEMA programs meant to house those in the trailers have failed to do what they have been funded to do. May 31 is the last day the trailers will be allowed for the still homeless Katrina victims. They may not have a place to go but FEMA isn’t interested, at the end of May families must leave the trailers that the agency rented out to victims of Katrina. Letters have been sent and received by the residents saying to vacate their trailer on May 30 or face legal action.
The New York Times reports:
“All I can say is that this is a temporary program, it was always intended as a temporary program, and at a certain point all temporary programs must end,” said Brent Colburn, the agency’s director of external affairs. He said there would be no extensions.
More that 4,000 Louisiana homeowners have only gotten money to rebuild their homes in the last six months. They are the lucky ones, many more haven’t any funding to help them rebuild their damaged homes. There hasn’t been time nor the money for those victims to have their former homes ready by the deadline that will take away their temporary housing at the end of May.
The promised 500 Katrina Cottages have yet to make it onto streets. Meant to replace the FEMA trailers they each cost $25,000 to build. Despite a $74.5 million grant to get the homes finished in time for those living in the trailers no one will be moving from their trailer to a cottage.
In their responses to the audit, the LRA and Cypress offered similar explanations: It’s not our fault, and we’re making progress.
Rep. Neil Abramson, D-New Orleans, called that “typical finger-pointing that accomplishes nothing.”
“It’s taken a long time, and we’re just not getting anything done,” Abramson said. “It’s the typical government bureaucracy at its slowest.”
At this point the homes should be finished by September 17, 2009 according to FEMA. Of course LRA Executive Director Paul Rainwater has backed away from 500 to 300 units as a more realistic goal.
Construction has only begun on two sites: one in Baton Rouge and another at Jackson Barracks in New Orleans. The Jackson Barracks units will house state Military Department employees.
Rainwater said Monday, “We are making progress in the program, with infrastructure under construction at Jackson Barracks, slabs poured and framing under way at sites in Baton Rouge and environmental reviews well under way in other locations.”
The Katrina Cottages are part of the Road Home program for single-family homeowners.
It’s not just those in the trailers that will be out on the curb at the end of May, those being housed in hotels are also about to lose their funding.
Most of those still in the trailers and hotels aren’t able to just run out and get a good paying job to help keep a roof over their heads after the levees broke during Hurricane Katrina. Those still in the trailers are mainly the elderly, disabled or both, including double amputees, diabetes patients, the mentally ill, people prone to seizures and others dependent on oxygen tanks.
The New York Times highlighted the plight of Phillipp Seelig, 70. He is a retired handyman who expects to be living on an empty lot when FEMA hauls away the trailer he’s been residing in at the end of May.
He didn’t release the needed grant to elevate his home to the required height until December. His duplex should be ready to live in around July.
“They had helped me out up until this point, and I couldn’t believe that they suddenly decided, no, we’re not going to let you finish the house, we’re just going to take the trailer, and you can sit here on an empty lot,” said Philipp Seelig.
The government’s stance is that they have bent over backwards to help people get housing and that they just haven’t taken it.
Those interviewed by the New York Times have a different story. Take the case of Troy Porter, 47, who has been in a hotel since last June. He suffers from depression.
“The only time I’ve seen FEMA workers was in the last couple of weeks, where they come and give you the paper saying this month is your last month,” Mr. Porter said. “They handed you the paper, and they turned around and walked off.”
Last year a program to unveil a more intensive caseworker system for those in temporary housing by the Louisiana Recovery Authority never made it past the paper. Now that authority is asking homeless service groups to help those who will be homeless at the end of the month.
FEMA is saying that it has offered to sell the trailers to residents for as little as $300. That is the opposite of what those in the trailer say is happening. They are asking to buy their trailer and being told they can’t do that.
Jane Batty, Mr. Seelig’s longtime tenant, who has her own trailer next to his, was not surprised. “There is only one way to categorize this kind of behavior: it’s crazy making,” she said. “They’ve always had a different answer or had a different ploy to get us out of trailers that we had already agreed to buy.”