Three months after Hurricane Ida, residents are still waiting for FEMA housing

It was not until November 2021 that each resident was placed in temporary housing after Hurricane Laura hit southwest Louisiana in August 2020, although many residents were placed in units before. this date. After Hurricane Harvey hit the Houston area in August 2017, it was not until the following June that each resident was placed in a unit.

What is at issue is not only competence, but difficult political choices which are still the subject of debate. Is providing housing for disaster victims the right role for government? If so, at what level of government? And how long after a disaster do victims need housing assistance?

“It can be done if there is a will” said Laurie Schoeman, disaster recovery specialist for Enterprise Community Partners, a nonprofit organization. But FEMA has moved away from direct housing towards rental and hotel vouchers.

“FEMA doesn’t want to be in the housing business,” Ms. Schoeman said.

In the middle are people like Ms. Manuel and her neighbors, some of whom have decided to sleep in cars or tents or inside damaged and moldy houses. Some have doubled or tripled with family and friends.

“It looks like they would already have steps, like: this is what we do when something happens,” Ms. Manuel said. “It’s like they’re trying to figure out what to do next instead of knowing it already. “

More than three months after Hurricane Ida ravaged the Louisiana coast, thousands of residents of the hardest-hit bayou communities southwest of New Orleans are still displaced. According to a FEMA spokesperson, only 126 of the 4,465 households deemed eligible by FEMA for direct housing had moved into housing. There is no estimated timeframe for completion.

After months of waiting for FEMA housing, Ms. Manuel’s older brother and sister finally received help from a different source: the state provided them each with a caravan, as part of a new program to meet acute housing need. The program went much faster than FEMA’s: by early December, around 1,200 families had moved into the Louisiana trailers – campers that can be towed by a vehicle – and another 800 are expected to move in over the next few weeks. . But the program, which started from scratch, has also experienced delays.

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