Officials Seek Better Way to Shelter Citizens Displaced by Hurricanes
BATON ROUGE (The Center Square) — Louisiana officials are working toward a more permanent system to shelter folks displaced by hurricanes, as about 10,000 remain in trailers and other temporary shelters heading into the 2022 storm season.
Casey Tingle, director of the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness GOHSEP, discussed ongoing issues heading into the hurricane season at the Press Club of Baton Rouge on Monday.
Tingle said the state is working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to streamline the system for housing folks displaced by hurricanes using lessons learned from a series of natural disasters over the past three years, the Plaquemine Post South reports.
“FEMA always has money before, during and after for the necessary recovery work,” he said. “But large scale housing requires congressional appropriation, which takes a lot longer.
“There’s a disconnection between the feds and the states,” he said. “It’s a big challenge when dealing with displaced families.”
GOHSEP created its own trailer program to more quickly house displaced residents after Hurricane Ida. The state program, which seeks reimbursement from FEMA, also allows for more relaxed rules than federal programs that cannot be located in flood zones, where the majority of those impacted live, BRProud reports.
“Those communities needed to have safe shelter close to their homes, many of them fish and have, you know, live on the water,” Tingle said. “And so being able to keep them close to home and community was important.”
GOHSEP officials are now working with FEMA to make the state program permanent, reusing trailers as folks transition back to permanent housing from Hurricanes Ida and Laura.
“We are preparing as if that’s a program that if we need to use it would be available to us. There’s certainly some contracting that we need to do that we can do in advance,” Tingle said. “Then what we call deactivating some of the units that are currently in use we are considering those that are feasible for our future mission.”
Tingle said 4,500 trailers remain in use through the state program, along with another 3,800 in a FEMA program, from Hurricane Ida. About 1,700 FEMA trailers are also still in use around Lake Charles from Hurricane Laura, BRProud reports.
“In February and March, we totaled 5,000 mobile housing units and 15,000 residents in the most impacted areas,” Tingle said, according to the Plaquemine Post South. “Federal, local, and state partnerships have helped with the temporary shelter process. It’s never sufficient to meet the most challenging needs, but it’s a helpful step forward.”
The nearly 10,000 temporary trailers still in use from the most recent hurricanes could result in evacuations called earlier than in the past as storms approach this hurricane season, he said, according to The Advocate.
Tingle also discussed the importance of preparing for storms beforehand, including stocking up on supplies, gathering important documents, and helping neighbors to do the same. Residents should examine their home insurance policies as well, he said, keeping in mind flood insurance does not take effect until 30 days after a policy is purchased.