Hotels Comment On FEMA Plan To Move Trailer Tenants To Inns - - The News for South Mississippi

Hotels Comment On FEMA Plan To Move Trailer Tenants To Inns

FEMA's decision to once again use hotels and motels as temporary housing options caught hotel insiders a bit off guard. They worry there may not be much room at the inns around south Mississippi.

Dusty Hughes is one of the reasons why. He's been in room 111 of the Suburban Lodge since last June. And because of work, the surveyor has no plans of checking out of the D'Iberville hotel until 2010.

"That's okay," he said, referring to his three year commitment to rebuild the coast. "It's a job, it's work."

The extended stays by contractors and volunteers have boosted business at several local hotels. And hotel managers say that could make it tough for FEMA to find room for the hurricane victims trapped in toxic trailers.

Mike Lightner runs the Suburban Lodge in D'Iberville.

"It's going to be difficult to put any kind of big numbers in here because of the occupancy we run right now," he said.

Most of his occupancy is made up of long term renters.

The head of the Mississippi Hotel and Lodging Association is Linda Hornsby.

"There's just got to be something else," she said.

Hornsby understands that people trapped in toxic trailers need a healthier place to live. However, she's not sure hotels on the coast, or around the rest of the state can accommodate those people. And she's not confident the coast can afford to transfer FEMA trailer tenants out-of-town.

"If you transplant them to other areas of the state, now you're dealing with our already depleted workforce," she said.

On top of that, Hornsby says that since FEMA rooms are tax free, that could impact the coliseum expansion. She also believes rooms taken up by hurricane evacuees would hurt charter fishermen and golf courses.

"Moving them to hotel rooms, while some would welcome some of those contracts, I don't know if that's the fix," she said. "We really need to look at that and see."

Roshon Shah doesn't have to look very hard. His inn along I-10 could use a few more reservations. So, FEMA is more than welcome to send its tenants his way.

"It is really good news. It would help out, because right now, we are really struggling," Shah admitted.

Mike Lightner's property isn't struggling. But he's also not going to turn away the people who've been stuck in FEMA's formaldehyde fumes.

"If we've got it, I'd be happy to put them up," he said.

Right after Hurricane Katrina, FEMA spent $542 million on hotel vouchers, so hurricane victims had places to stay. At its peak, that program used 85,000 hotel rooms around the country. FEMA disbanded the program in March, 2006, six months after the storm.

FEMA has not released its relocation plan yet.  It's goal is to get people out of the toxic travel trailers by this summer.

By Brad Kessie

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