The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

June 15, 2011

FEMA placing first storm victims in housing units

JOPLIN, Mo. — Rosie Sanders squealed with joy as she opened the front door and got a glimpse of a modular home that the Federal Emergency Management Agency will provide to her family.

“Oh, I’m so happy,” she said Wednesday as she toured, with FEMA representatives, the three-bedroom home in the Country Acres Mobile Home Community at Duquesne Road and Zora Street. “Thank you all so much.”

It was hard to tell who was more excited, Sanders or her 4-year-old daughter, Tyreka. “Come pick out your room,” father Tyrone Townsend told the girl. She ran through the home and decided on the big bedroom at the end of the hall. “This is mine,” she said, inviting visitors to come and look at her room.

SHELTER TO HOME

The family is among the first in Joplin to move from a Red Cross shelter into one of the housing units being supplied by FEMA to displaced victims of the May 22 tornado.

Sanders and Townsend and their three children lived at the Oak Meadows Apartments, 15th Street and Michigan Avenue. Townsend said he watched hail strike on the Sunday of the tornado, and when it stopped, he went back to watching television. Then he heard a roar, like a freight train, and looked out to see a tree bent to the ground by the wind.

They had no time to get downstairs to take cover, he said. “We rode it out on the third floor,” so frightened that certain noises now upset them. “I still can’t stand to hear anything with a hum,” he said, and his daughter is startled by the everyday sound of a toilet flushing.

Their new home is equipped with storm alert radios in each bedroom as well as strobe-equipped smoke alarms. And, the family is only steps from an underground storm shelter available to all residents of the mobile home park, said Gary Wilson, manager of the park.

Wilson said there are 186 mobile homes in the park, and 43 of the FEMA units will be added. The park has property to develop sites for 30 more if needed. He said all tenants, including those placed by FEMA, undergo a criminal background check before they are approved to move into the park as a safety precaution.

500 FAMILIES

People who remain in the Red Cross shelter will be the first to receive the housing units, said Pam Willis, a FEMA housing specialist.

She said 500 families that have housing needs have been identified, and it is uncertain how many can be placed in other types of housing and how many will be moved into modular housing units like the one to be occupied by Sanders and Townsend.

In addition to the sites available at Country Acres, FEMA has located 140 other pad sites where units can be set up. City officials have provided information about possible sites where FEMA parks could be established if need be, and some parks, like Country Acres, can be expanded, Willis said.

FEMA can supply as many housing units as are needed to provide homes to Joplin tornado victims, she said. There is no cost to those approved for the assistance, and utilities are paid. Maintenance also is provided if a repair is needed, she said.

The temporary housing will be supplied for up to 18 months.



FEMA contact

THOSE LEFT HOMELESS from the tornado may contact FEMA at 800-621-3362.

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