Groups Blast FEMA For Failing The Disabled - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

10/12/05

Groups Blast FEMA For Failing The Disabled

Volunteers have been pitching in to help the Hill family and their disabled 18-year-old daughter.

"These guys built that ramp for you so your wheelchair can go up and down," Holly Hill told her daughter.

Lauren Hill was born with a rare neurological condition that left her paralyzed.

"She's been a very sick little girl," said Hill.

The family's Biloxi home flooded during Katrina. They're now living in a small trailer that's on loan from a Picayune business owner, but it's not handicap-accessible.

"You can't deal with a shower, tub situation like this. You just can't do it. She's too big and that's way too small," said Hill.

Hill says she has applied for a special FEMA trailer for her daughter since September 15th, and still there's no word.

"I'm very disappointed in the reaction from FEMA. I'm more than disappointed. I'm angry, very angry," said Hill.

"They're just now beginning to roll in.  Trickle in one at a time," said Becky Floyd.

She is the director of the Mississippi Protection and Advocacy Systems, a non-profit agency that helps people with disabilities. Members of the group claim more than 20 people in South Mississippi need accessible trailers, but as of this week, only two have received them.

On Wednesday, the group joined several other agencies in criticizing FEMA for not moving fast enough to help people with disabilities.

"They're so overwhelmed by all of it that they just lose our people with disability. They haven't been organized enough to have a certain group of people to handle the special needs people," said Floyd.

The Hills hope a new trailer will arrive soon, because they've ordered a special bath chair just for Lauren.

"We're going to have a bath, and we're going to have a party in the bathtub. That's what we'll do," Hill said.

The groups also claim there "is" accessible housing available.

"They're out there, and there should be no excuse for not getting those trailers to the people who need them," said Floyd.

WLOX spoke to a FEMA representative about the accusations. Stan Cramer says he understands their frustrations, but it's very difficult to get handicap-accessible travel trailers, and there's a shortage of housing everywhere.

"There's more manufactured housing that's accessible for the disabled, for example, than there are trailers. It's easier to get those then it is trailers. So we're working on both ends. We're trying to get both of them in here as fast as we can.  All we can ask of FEMA, and I know we say it over and over again, but all we can ask is patience," said Cramer.

Cramer also says he doesn't know how many accessible trailers have been set up, or how many are on the way, but the disabled are on the priority list.

By: Trang Pham-Bui

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