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Post-Ida temporary trailers could arrive as soon as mid-October through state program

 Aerial of Hurricane Ida damage in southeast Louisiana, Tuesday, August 31, 2021. Pool photo by Hilary Scheinuk, The Advocate.
Aerial of Hurricane Ida damage in southeast Louisiana, Tuesday, August 31, 2021. Pool photo by Hilary Scheinuk, The Advocate.

FEMA isn’t expected to start taking applications for temporary shelters from the thousands of Hurricane Ida victims who lost homes until mid-November, so state officials are getting the ball rolling with a first-of-its-kind sheltering program.

The Governor’s Office Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (GOHSEP) announced Monday that they will begin providing travel trailers for residents in parishes hit hardest by the storm as early as next week.

GOHSEP is partnering with the FEMA Public Assistance program to procure the trailers. According to a press release from Gov. John Bel Edwards’ office, the federal government will cover 90% of the cost.

Mike Steele, GOHSEP’s communications director, says the Hurricane Ida Sheltering Program will not replace FEMA’s Direct Housing Program, but will “fill the gap until their program gets ramped up and rolling.” GOHSEP hopes to “seamlessly” hand over control of the trailers to FEMA once that’s possible.

FEMA partnered with the state government because FEMA’s program can take several months to get shelters where they need to be, Steele said, so they asked GOHSEP to help start the process. If the state can get shelters to victims a month or more before FEMA is able to, GOHSEP will consider that a success.

“Based on past events, it took months and months, in some cases, to get people into (FEMA’s) program,” said Steele. He pointed out that many victims of Hurricane Laura experienced the loss of their homes in August 2020 and didn’t get trailers until April or May of this year, even though they applied for temporary housing as soon as applications opened in the fall of 2020.

“This program didn't even exist until maybe last week,” Steele said. GOHSEP anticipates a few challenges for the program, including a nationwide shortage of RVs and mobile homes that can be used as temporary transportable housing units, which FEMA calls TTHUs. There’s also a shortage of truck drivers and other workers the state will need to get the program up and running.

Under normal circumstances, FEMA would fund congregate shelter arrangements, like sheltering in the Superdome after Hurricane Katrina. However, the COVID-19 pandemic led FEMA to pursue non-congregate sheltering solutions, like travel trailers, hotel rooms and mobile homes.

The Hurricane Ida Sheltering Program is unique in Louisiana’s disaster recovery history. Steele said the most similar program was the Shelter At Home Program, which provided barebones home rebuilding for victims of the June 2016 floods in South Louisiana.

For that program, the state worked with a contracted engineering firm to make homes “safe and habitable” as long as that could be done for under $15,000. There’s no cost limit on the Hurricane Ida Sheltering Program, though, and the state is working with FEMA instead of a private contractor.

According to Steele, TTHUs will most likely be available first at group sites like RV campsites and mobile home parks. These sites already have infrastructure for trailers, like water and sewer hookups.

Residents who want TTHUs closer to their homes during the rebuilding process should apply as early as possible and prepare a space for installation.

“There's a number of issues at the local level that have to be worked through before we can start setting these up in someone's driveway or in their yard,” Steele said, adding that GOHSEP plans to work with parish governments to cater to residents’ specific needs and conditions on the ground.

FEMA published a tip sheet after Hurricane Laura for receiving a trailer on private property that recommends contacting your utility company to help prepare for delivery of a TTHU. Residents can register for this temporary shelter opportunity at IdaShelteringLA.com or by calling (844) 268-0301.

Copyright 2021 WWNO - New Orleans Public Radio. To see more, visit WWNO - New Orleans Public Radio.