FEMA trailers provided shelter when hurricane victims needed a place to live. But over time, the parks that housed many of the trailers became a nuisance. Police reports indicate drugs and guns often haunted trailer tenants and their neighboring communities.
So, Gulfport is moving ahead with plans to get rid of its temporary trailer parks by New Year's Eve. However, it won't completely eliminate its FEMA trailers.
Residents like John Roza can petition the city to get an extension beyond December 31st. Roza designed his new home to look like a 17th century Dutch winery.
"Architecture is my passion," he said. "I had an opportunity to design my first house from the ground up."
The three bedroom house is in an area of west Gulfport that still has plenty of hurricane scars. When the house is finished, it will be quite a change from the small FEMA trailer in Roza's front yard.
"It's going to be wonderful. It's going to be really great," he said just before he hammered another nail into the home's exterior frame.
Roza has until the end of next month to get rid of his trailer. However, since work on his new house is well underway, a city council member says he'll likely get an extension to keep the FEMA dwelling a few months past the deadline.
But many of the 1,850 people around the city still living in FEMA trailers have been told it's time to pack up and find more permanent housing. That's why FEMA trailer parks around the city look so empty.
"We know this is a difficult time," Gulfport councilwoman Ella Holmes Hines said. "This crossroad is one that we all dread coming up."
The Gulfport City Council wants the FEMA trailer parks gone, and updates on individual recovery projects by December 31st.
"We want to know what are your obstacles, and what are going to be any challenges you're facing now, and are you rebuilding your homes," Holmes Hines said.
John Roza is rebuilding. His home near Gulfport's waterfront should be finished in four months.
"Finally," he exclaimed.
Appeals to keep FEMA trailers must go through Gulfport's Urban Development office.
Gulfport isn't the only city that's ordering its residents to move out of their FEMA trailers. The city of Long Beach has set a February 1, 2008 deadline for its FEMA trailers to disappear. Biloxi and Pass Christian don't have deadlines. However, both cities are reminding FEMA trailers tenants that they'll have to start paying rent for their temporary homes on March 1, 2008. The rent starts at $50 a month.