Jackson County Woman First To Receive Latest MS Cottage

MEMA representatives couldn't wait to give Betty Tague a tour of her new, temporary home.

"Oh, this is lovely," Tague exclaimed.

The latest Mississippi Cottage model is handicapped-accessible and comes with furniture, linens, and full-size kitchen appliances.

"I don't know how to act," Tague said as she checked out the cabinets and dining set.

The 728-square foot house, built just last week in Georgia, is a far cry from her cramped FEMA trailer.

"I don't have to roll over on my bed to make it anymore," Tague joked. "Just seeing the size, after living in a FEMA trailer, and be able to walk through the doors straight."

What a change for the 71-year old lady, who lost everything when Katrina wiped out her mobile home on Maple Avenue in Jackson County. Tague never dreamed she would be the first to receive the two-bedroom cottage, through the pilot Mississippi Alternative Housing Program.

"I'm still kind of in shock, or awe, or whatever you want to say," Tague said. "I can't hardly believe it's happening to me. I'm so happy."

Every month, MEMA advisers will inspect the house to test its energy-efficiency, durability, and whether it's comfortable and easy to maintain. All those issues will help determine whether this type of housing will be used in future disasters.

"It's installed to withstand 150 mph winds," said MEMA Project Manager Becky Baum. "It's just safer, and that's one of the big goals of the program. As you know, the program was to design, construct, and deploy safer, more livable units. And the fact that we get to put people in them to test them is just a bonus."

"I'm anxious to move in," Tague said. "And I don't think it'll take me long to move in either."

Tague has the option to buy the two-bedroom cottage when the program ends in 2009. Just so you know, the one-bedroom cottages were first installed in June. So far, 60 of them have gone up. And next week, the three-bedroom models are expected to arrive.