The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

May 2011 Joplin tornado

June 9, 2013

Last of 586 FEMA trailers in Joplin to be prepared for move

JOPLIN, Mo. — For 19 months, rows of nearly 600 units spread out among community and commercial sites were a visual reminder of the homes lost in Joplin on May 22, 2011.

One by one, contractors began disassembling and moving the trailers, a testament to their occupants having found places to live.

Today, contractors will prepare the last two — one occupied until Sunday by Mike and Paige Morris, and one occupied by their neighbors, Nikki and Jason Williams — for moving from a site along Fountain Road. Officials with the Federal Emergency Management Agency then will close the site.

Contractors also will move another trailer, occupied by another individual, out of the Hope Haven site on Highway 171 across from the Joplin airport. The remaining occupants at other sites, including Officer Jeff Taylor Memorial Acres, moved out last week, according to Will Fiorini, FEMA’s direct housing group supervisor for Region 7.

FEMA officials had authorized the trailers to be vacated by November 2012 — 18 months from the date of the state’s disaster declaration. The city of Joplin requested an extension of that deadline to allow for additional construction and development of local housing resources, and the request was granted in mid-October.

Those remaining were given until Sunday, but they began paying rent in January.

“I’ve been involved with 20 direct housing sites of all different sizes, from 20 in Oregon to Hurricane Katrina,” Fiorini said. “I have to say, Joplin is what I would call a model for FEMA operation. It has less to do with FEMA individually but rather what the community has been able to do — partnerships where everyone came to the table. The community effort here has just been absolutely tremendous.”

Fiorini cited Joplin’s Long-Term Recovery Committee, the Economic Security Corp., Rebuild Joplin and Joplin Area Habitat for Humanity as examples of partners that have helped find housing solutions for the occupants of the trailers.

Some occupants, like longtime Joplin resident Flo Taylor, were success stories. She moved to the Officer Jeff Taylor Memorial Acres community site after losing both her Hampshire Terrace apartment and the Wal-Mart store in which she worked.

Last November, Taylor happily packed her things and moved out after her Habitat for Humanity home on Kentucky Avenue was complete.

Others, like the Morris family, faced more challenges.

Having lost their rental home and a borrowed vehicle when the storm hit 22nd Street and Jackson Avenue, they used the FEMA money they received to move to what they said was the only place they could find, a rental in Neosho, for as long as the money lasted. They moved to the trailer on Fountain Road almost 19 months ago.

“We’re appreciative,” Mike Morris said of their time in the trailer. “We couldn’t ask for anything more. We’re lucky it lasted as long as it did.”

The couple have been unable to find employment, they said, because of felony arrest records for drug use, and because they have no vehicle. “Finding a job has been impossible,” Mike Morris said.

He said it also has been hard to find a rental that they could afford. Paige Morris said Shelter Plus Care has helped them secure one in Joplin that will be available in about a week. Until then, she hopes to find a place to store their belongings, as well as a place for their pit bull, which can’t move with them.

“Once we get living in town where things are closer, I’ll hit the Career Center and start pounding the pavement,” Mike Morris said. “I’ll be able to get around easier and have easier access to the trolley system.”

He said he also has been undergoing weekly therapy at Ozark Center for post-traumatic stress disorder that he said was brought on from helping dig people, both living and dead, out of the rubble after the storm.

The couple’s three children remain under the care of the state until they turn their lives around, Mike Morris added, which he said is an incentive to try.

Paige Morris said because they are trying to turn their lives around, they are not willing to stay with the people they know in the area.

“Everyone we know, we’re trying to stay away from,” she said.

The Williamses, who had been living in a rental at 2112 S. Bird Ave., said the storm rendered the house unlivable. They have been living in a FEMA trailer at the Fountain Road site for about 19 months.

Nikki Williams said her arrest record and the couple’s lack of transportation have made it “almost impossible” to find a job.

Barb Sturner, an external affairs specialist for Region 7, said FEMA case managers worked closely with all the occupants to find solutions to their housing needs, something Paige Morris said she appreciated.

Nikki Williams said she and her husband plan to start living in a tent.

“We’ve been homeless before,” she said. “We’ll just try to start saving up whatever we can to find a place. I really just want to leave here. I want to move to Florida.”

FEMA officials will do a final inspection today, then a contractor will prepare the trailers to be moved to a staging area at Neosho, where officials will determine whether they should be reused or auctioned.

“It’s very respectable,” Fiorini said of the timeline in which Joplin occupants found housing. “Not a lot (of disaster areas) happen like this. This is a very large housing mission which required a lot of assets, a lot of coordination, so to get to where we are in two years is pretty commendable.”

Before the tornado, the acreage across Highway 171 from the airport was designated as a site on which the city would build a public safety training center. According to city spokeswoman Lynn Onstot, the city still plans to build one there, but she said the timeline for doing so is uncertain. The playgrounds from the sites will go into a park area in Joplin. The city of Joplin will donate one to the city of Duquesne.

Text Only
May 2011 Joplin tornado
  • r041414wildwood.jpg Opening of nursing home another recovery milestone

    Gladys Dutton has done a lot of things in her life, but Monday’s dedication of the Communities at Wildwood Ranch nursing home marked a first. “I’ve never cut a ribbon before,” she said. “I hope I do a good job.” Dutton was one of four residents to participate in the opening of the $8.5 million nursing center that eventually will be home to 120 people.

    April 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • 052212 unity walk1_72.jpg SLIDESHOW: One year later, One day of unity, updated Photos from a day of events commemorating the May 22, 2011 tornado anniversary

    May 22, 2012 1 Photo

  • Joplin Redevelopment Corp. preparing for first property sale

    The first sale of property from the Joplin Redevelopment Corp. to Wallace Bajjali Development Partners is scheduled for May 16. The city staff will be working to prepare for that sale, it was discussed on Tuesday at a meeting of the JRC.

    April 9, 2014

  • Issues prompt pair to seek help from city; allocations approved for repairs in tornado zone

    Two people spoke to the Joplin City Council on Monday night about issues they would like the city government to address. Elizabeth Clement, a Neosho resident who works in Joplin, asked the city to operate more surveillance in parking lots because of the number of cars stolen. She said her car was stolen from the parking lot at Northpark Mall and used in robberies.

    April 7, 2014

  • National institute releases final report on Joplin tornado

    The National Institute of Standards and Technology on Friday released a final report into the technical investigation of the May 22, 2011, tornado that struck Joplin — the deadliest tornado in the United States in the 64 years that official records have been kept.

    March 28, 2014

  • r031814tornadofunds2.jpg Local tornado fund board cites appreciation, accomplishments

    The 991 donations ranged from $1 to $119,000. They came from all over the world. On Tuesday, the managers of the Joplin Tornado First Response Fund gave an accounting of how those donations, which totaled about $995,950 with interest, were given in 41 grants, recipients of which included 27 local agencies.

    March 18, 2014 2 Photos

  • Dan Riddell 0604013.jpg Farmers Insurance extends tornado recovery commitment

    After investments that included stationing a company executive in Joplin for eight months last year, officials with Farmers Insurance said the company will continue its post-tornado commitment to Joplin in 2014. “We’re going to stay until the end,” said Doris Dunn, director of community relations for the company, on Wednesday. “That includes sending in another 100-plus volunteers and making some additional financial investments.”

    February 26, 2014 1 Photo

  • r021714rescuedog.jpg Author prepares for release of children’s book featuring heroic Joplin rescue dog

    Carolyn Mueller is both a dog lover and a storyteller. So when she got the opportunity to write a story about a Joplin dog named Lily who helped search for survivors after the May 2011 tornado, she jumped on it. “Dogs like Lily can be heroes, too,” she said.

    February 18, 2014 2 Photos

  • VIDEO: Lost photos claim day to be held at museum

    National Disaster Photo Rescue and the Joplin Museum Complex have scheduled a public viewing and photo claim day for 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 22, at the museum complex in Schifferdecker Park. The project, originally known as Lost Photos of Joplin, was organized in the weeks after the May 22, 2011, Joplin tornado to reunite storm victims with photos displaced by the storm.

    February 4, 2014

  • Building-permit total since tornado nears $1 billion

    The building of new homes in Joplin continues at an average pace of 16 to 18 per month, according to a building permit report released for December by the city of Joplin. Eighteen building permits for new homes were issued in both November and December. In fiscal year 2013, permits for new homes averaged more than 16 per month.

    January 31, 2014

Purchase Globe Photos

Featured Ads
Tornado: Multimedia coverage
Tornado: Obituaries
Tornado: Columns
Tornado: Mike Pound
Tornado: Lists of missing, fatalities & relief
Tornado: Donate & volunteer
Tornado: Resources & relief