FEMA Temporary Housing Program After Ike To End Soon

More than a year after Hurricane Ike swept through southeast Texas, there are still hundreds of families living in FEMA trailers. Now, with a housing deadline looming, the agency says those families should be looking for other places to live. Jack Williams reports.

“It’s a good program. It started out as a great program, but it’s appropriately named “t”, temporary.”

FEMA’s Brad Craine says after Ike, the agency set up almost 4,000 trailers all across the region, from Beaumont to Galveston and even up into Houston. Victims of the storm whose homes or apartments were damaged have been living in the trailers rent-free for more than a year. Now, FEMA says they have to move on by March 12th.

“As the residents were coming in to these temporary housing units months ago, they signed an agreement that they would be indeed looking for a place to live other than this temporary housing unit. That was even before the keys were turned over to them. So, they had this license agreement that was signed.  They would be looking for another unit. Well, some have not done that. We do have some renters that will have to be moving on.”   

More than 1,400 families are still in the trailers but most have been actively looking for another place to live. The vast majority are homeowners waiting for their homes to be repaired. By law, temporary housing benefits only last for 18 months and Craine says FEMA is ramping-up its efforts to encourage people to look for more permanent housing.

“The case workers will be coming around. They were coming around on a monthly basis. They’re now coming around every two weeks or even weekly. With the caseworker, they’re on a first-name basis with these residents of the temporary housing units. And again, we want them to take advantage of the resources. There’s many resources out there. We have over 1000 identified rental properties that folks may want to take a look at.”  

And there are other housing programs administered by HUD that residents can apply for once they’ve moved from the trailers. Craine says there’s a fine line between being sensitive and encouraging residents to move on with their lives.

“There’s an awful lot of us here that are working to get folks their lives back in order and you have to be sensitive to it but also, they need to, the families, which many of them have already done, 2,257 families have already moved-on from the original 3,720 units, so there’s a lot of folks that have moved-on. They’ve gotten their houses repaired, or in a renters case, they’ve found another place to rent.” 

Again, that deadline for residents still living in FEMA trailers to find more permanent housing is March 12th.  

Jack Williams, KUHF-Houston Public Radio News.