Sunday, May 07, 2006
Those Hope-less FEMA Trailers
Since we are just a few weeks away from the start of the official hurricane season and we are hearing how the Bush Administration is now totally prepared to deal with a crisis, I got to wondering....whatever became of those more than 10,000 trailers?
You know, the ones that are being stored in Hope, Arkansas, but never got used.
This is how CNN covered the story back on February 19th, after the story had been languishing for just under a week:
"(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
"MICHAEL CHERTOFF, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: There are about 10,000 mobile homes in this field in Hope.
"WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: At a cost of, what, $300 million?
"CHERTOFF: Well, that's the purchase price. Now they will eventually be used. Some of them will be used with respect to areas of the Gulf that are not in a flood plain. Some of them have been used with respect to wildfires, people who lost their homes to wildfires in Oklahoma and Texas. Some will be used in hurricanes season this year. For example, in we have hurricanes in Florida or other places where there's wind damage but not flood damage. So this is not going to go to waste.
"(END VIDEO CLIP)
"LIN: FEMA managers acknowledge that some of the trailer homes parked in Arkansas are sagging under their own weight but they insist that all of the mobile homes will be used in the future."
Of course, by then, it wasn't even a top story on CNN. As they put it, they were all "abuzz" about a Powerball lottery winner. And preparing us for the upcoming dangers of bird flu.
The news life of this story was shorter than Ryan Seacrest's relationship with Terri Hatcher. And that is saying something.
However, the unused trailer story remains in the news. It's just that nobody is covering it.
Among the latest developments, Ralph Nader made an appeal to President Clinton. In a letter dated March 15th, Nader appealed to the 'man from Hope' to get those trailers out of Hope and off to where they could provide some good.
On April 5th, Nader got the following response from the Clinton, "I have worked to right this wrong since I first heard reports of the trailers' existence. Many communities have been unwilling to host the trailers because they don't want them in their neighborhoods, lack the capacity to house them, or face utility problems."
So I guess this is now a NIMBY issue. NIMBY, as in 'not in my backyard.'
"From the horse's mouth, here is a FEMA factsheet, dated April 20th:
"More than 10,000 (10,112 as of April 20) of these fully-maintained and ready-for-use mobile homes are staged in Hope, Ark.—easily accessible to housing operations in Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. In addition, the units are also available for other disasters in which there are needs for direct housing, such as the areas ravaged by tornadoes this spring.
"FEMA mobile homes staged in Arkansas are fully habitable, available and properly maintained. These mobile homes represent one component of FEMA’s comprehensive housing strategy which has already helped more than 825,000 hurricane victims from Katrina and Rita with temporary housing assistance."
However, there is a caveat. Early reports suggested that the mobile home foundations were not especially stable and were becoming more unstable as the homes settled. And then of course, was this early nugget from CNN on February 13th, from CNN correspondent Susan Roesgen:
"FEMA says these mobile homes aren't allowed in a flood plain, which pretty much rules out most of southeast Louisiana. Why did FEMA order them in the first place if they can't be used in areas where people need them? That's what I asked, but nobody seems to know. So the mobile homes sit there, immobile, 450 miles away from the Gulf Coast."
Well, if we ever get another hurricane, that does not affect an area in a flood plain, these trailers will really come in handy.
Oh, by the way, was anybody held accountable for this exceptional misuse of taxpayer money? Nobody? How surprising.
At any rate, I am sure everybody is happy that our Commander-in-Chief is boldly prepared to step up to the plate in the upcoming 2006 hurricane season. According to the AP, on his visit to New Orleans a little over a week ago, Bush said, "Pray there is no hurricane this coming year, but we are working together to make sure if there is one, the response will be as efficient as possible."
Sure it will, George. Sure it will.
(Photo courtesy of AP)