The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Tornado: Resources & relief

June 12, 2011

RESOURCE: FEMA housing arrives at Crowder

NEOSHO, Mo. — The last time temporary housing was brought to Camp Crowder, it was to house soldiers training for combat in World War II. Now, the first FEMA shipment of mobile homes is rolling in to provide temporary housing for those left homeless by the May 22 tornado in Joplin.

The first of 10 units began arriving Saturday morning from Selma, Ala., said Russ Edmonston, spokesman for the Federal Emergency Management Agency. They will continue to arrive daily.

Their arrival is coming at a time when those who have been staying in the Red Cross shelter at Missouri Southern State University in Joplin are anxious about what the future holds for them.

For Virginia Davidson, the mobile homes can’t be ready soon enough. She has been living in the Red Cross shelter since the tornado destroyed her mother’s home. She and others still living in the shelter are awaiting word about when they can move into the FEMA housing.

“There are lots of single mothers here with children who don’t know where they are going,” Davidson said.

She said the anxiety among those living in the shelter has been heightened by news that the Red Cross plans to close the shelter at MSSU on Tuesday, but it has not yet released information regarding the location of a replacement shelter. That decision is to be made by Tuesday.

Davidson, whose mother, Sandra Benson, is disabled, said she does not want to move to another town because her mother’s doctors are in Joplin. She said many of the people who are living in the shelter are low-income or elderly and do not have anywhere else to go.

Josh deBerge, FEMA external affairs specialist, said the agency will be “looking at the shelter population as a priority” when it begins matching victims with the housing.

Edmonston said the mobile homes will be placed on existing commercial lots in and around Joplin. The use of existing lots is intended to save the time and money needed to connect water, sewer and electrical service to the units.

He said that once storm victims have moved into their units, the cost of rent and utilities would be covered by FEMA for up to 18 months.

Edmonston said several resources are available to assist storm victims with finding permanent housing. He said the U.S. Small Business Administration is offering low-interest loans of up to $200,000 for homeowners and $40,000 for renters to help them find new housing.

For those who lost everything in the storm and need immediate housing, Edmonston said the three-bedroom, one-bathroom units are fully furnished with beds, sofas, appliances, dishes, linens and coffee makers.

He said the preliminary order is for 60 mobile homes, but it could be increased if the need becomes greater. He said 147 commercial lots are available for the units, but some may need to be upgraded to accommodate higher voltage wiring.

Edmonston said that after the devastation of the tornado, some victims may not want to live in a mobile home, but for those who need housing, FEMA is prepared to provide as many mobile homes as are needed.

Edmonston’s last assignment was in Iowa, where he said FEMA provided 600 units to residents displaced by flooding. He said he has worked in many disaster areas, but the devastation in Joplin is a rare sight.

“I personally have never seen anything like that, except during Hurricane Andrew down below 88th street in Miami (Fla., in 1992),” he said. “It was such a tight hurricane. It came through a 30-mile swath and really cleaned everything off, and that’s the same impression I get here.”

Temporary?

DESPITE THE STIPULATION that the local housing is to be temporary, The Associated Press has reported that about 260 trailers still are occupied by victims of hurricanes Katrina and Rita that struck the Gulf Coast more than five years ago. To deter long-term stays, occupants of FEMA housing will undergo a monthly recertification intended to transition them into more permanent housing, the agency said.

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