Seven months after Laura, many in Calcasieu still await housing from FEMA
Seven months past Hurricane Laura and many Calcasieu Parish residents are still awaiting housing from FEMA. As of March 25, “More than 800 households with Calcasieu Parish addresses are pending a unit,” said Gerrard Hammink, FEMA media relations specialist.
“The good news is that we keep handing over the keys to people everyday. Unfortunately, it’s just not moving as quickly as anyone would like,” he said.
FEMA has been accommodating residents with campers or RVs on their own property, in RV parks or in trailer parks. To date in Calcasieu Parish, 1,249 units have been occupied, 35 households have moved out and 1,214 units are currently occupied, Hammink said.
The agency recognizes that little details seem to be slowing down the process of getting applicants housed. “What FEMA leaders are trying to do everyday is solve those small problems that have all together added up to a slower response than what we want.”
These small problems can include issues with setting up electricity, water and sewer service and weather delays, he said. “It’s things that involve workers, appointments, permits and bringing it all together to make sure that a temporary unit can actually serve a resident.”
Additionally, weather like last month’s winter storms add to the delay. “With the winter storm, our daily total of handing over keys dropped into the single digits for, I think, two days.”
Comparing the work to a football game, Hammink said FEMA’s efforts are very much a “running game.”
“Everyday we keep marching…We get up the next day and we reschedule the appointments. The work continues and it will continue until we help everyone who is wanting or needing a solution.”
Another major obstacle to progress has been locating a group site for mobile homes which the agency will “build from scratch” alongside partners with the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers. “Some possibilities, we’ve worked on them and they’ve just proven to be unfeasible…It’s hard work. But we continue to work on it because our current estimates just don’t show that there are enough slots in the commercial parks.”
Ultimately, Hammink said its safe to say the agency is making progress in the region. “We have a lot of pads leased. We have a lot trailers ready…We just keep it moving, score and do it all over again. It’s not a high scoring game, but in the end, we will win.”