Gap between FEMA aid, public housing could leave some homeless

By A.J. Giardina - bio | email

OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - FEMA is ending its housing assistance program on February 28th. That means anyone living in a FEMA trailer or in a motel must find other living arrangements.

A number of FEMA recipients living at local motels contacted WLOX Action Reporter A.J. Giardina to see if FEMA would extend their stay, until public housing becomes available.

Owen Beaugez is one of close to two dozen people living in two motels off interstate 10 in Ocean Springs.

"Here I am handicapped. What am I going to do?" Beaugez asked. "What they need to do is speed up and get things rolling around here, or we're going to be homeless."

Like many people who called WLOX News, Kerry Fagan has found a permanent home through public housing. The problem, she says, is that the housing units are still under construction and won't be available until after the FEMA deadline passes.

"They're telling me I've got to get out, get out. I show them proof that I have this housing. Now housing is telling me that it's not going to be available for next month. And now this program is ending by the 28th and I have no where to go with my child," Fagan said. "I'll be under the bridge or a women's shelter."

FEMA's Housing Resource Department has identified more then 5,600 available rental housing units on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. The motel residents say most of those apartments or rentals are too expensive.

"Nobody have no where to go because they have no money, nothing. They have no house, nothing," Phuong Griffin said.

Cindy Songer says she'll be okay, but has concern for others.

"All these people here are in wheelchairs, who are completely, they have no place to go at all. Nothing. Nobody to help them," Songer said.

Edwin Huff says he has nothing to say bad about FEMA, only that the assistance program is coming to an end before public housing becomes available in a few weeks.

"I would like to see them extend the program," Huff said. "I have no where to go, nothing to do. So I'll be out like everyone else."

"Just give me an extra month until it becomes available so I'll have a home. I'll have a home where I could cook meals," Fagan said.

FEMA spokesman Eugene Brezany told WLOX News that FEMA will work with people who have an opportunity to move into permanent housing. However, for those who've done nothing to find a housing solution, FEMA is unable to continue to provide free temporary housing. Brezany said they have granted 30 day extension nine different times now.

As of February 10th, 172 people are receiving motel assistance while 2,457 others are still living in FEMA travel trailers or mobile homes. Brezany recommended that those in need contact their housing advisor.