ROE Forms Won't Help 400 Biloxians

Before Katrina, Lysa Broussard raised her family in a small, 80-year-old shotgun style house on Hoxie Street. On Tuesday, it came tumbling down.

"There were a lot of tears shed this morning," the homeowner said. "It's been a nightmare."

Broussard paid $1,800 out of her own pocket to finish a job she expected FEMA to do for her.

"I'm angry. I'm very disillusioned," Broussard said. "They told us, 'All you have to do is sign this ROE form. Everything is going to be taken care of.'"

But as Broussard and 400 Biloxi hurricane victims recently found out, filling out a right of entry form didn't automatically qualify them for free demolition work. According to FEMA, and Biloxi's debris removal liaison, the hurricane damage had to meet certain guidelines.

"If the house isn't, doesn't have structural damage, then FEMA isn't willing to obligate public assistance funding to tear it down," Biloxi liaison Jonathan Kiser said.

In November, FEMA sent out a five point rating system to determine who qualified for its right of entry program. Broussard was told her home was a one or a two, and therefore didn't get demolition funding.

It had two strikes against it. Its age qualified it for the National Historic Preservation Act. And those homes couldn't be touched. Plus, its structural damage didn't meet FEMA's ROE criteria.

Broussard remembers a FEMA representative saying, "Either way, point blank, we aren't taking down your home."

So a few friends, who often eat at the restaurant where Broussard works, did the demolition for her. Brad Shirey headed up the demolition team.

"She set the price. We weren't going to charge her anything," he said.

FEMA did say it would haul off Broussard's debris pile at no cost to her, once the demolition team she hired dragged it to the edge of Hoxie Street.

"Now that it's done, it's a relief," Broussard said. "I can't dwell on that anymore."