Thursday, May 15, 2008

FEMA parks closing June 1

BILOXI --Residents living in FEMA trailer parks are panicking about where they will live when the temporary housing program ends June 1.

Some residents have flooded a local mission group with phone calls, asking for help finding and moving into new homes. Roughly 6,800 families in South Mississippi still live in the temporary trailers, as the third anniversary of Katrina nears.

"There's just an outpouring from the community of people desperate to try to scrape together dollars here and there to pay deposits on rentals to move out of their FEMA trailers," said Dena Wittmann of Back Bay Mission. The United Church of Christ group is focusing on emergency housing assistance.

The residents, Wittmann said, have been told by their housing advisers that they will be evicted, and the trailers will be removed, by June 1. They want to know where they can get the money for a deposit on a rental, which usually is the cost of one month's rent.

"These deposits are the largest impediment to people moving into more permanent housing," she said.

FEMA has provided the residents with a list of rental properties available, and other resources, including nonprofit agencies that assist with deposits.

Back Bay Missions was on that list, but Wittmann said the group could not afford to cut families a check for more than $800 each - the average cost of a two-bedroom apartment.

"If we were to pay 10 families (the deposit), that would eat into our entire budget for the month," she said. "It's just gotten really scary for a lot of these families that are coming to us and are just desperate for help."