According to Mississippi's Emergency Management director, it's time to start moving people out of temporary trailers. MEMA has $280 million to make the switch from trailers to cottages. MEMA director Mike Womack is on the coast this week to explain how some of the people who've been in trailers since Katrina can qualify for an alternative form of temporary housing.
For homeowners like Patty Broussard, FEMA trailers provided initial relief when the hurricane victims needed roofs over their heads.
"We're grateful that we're alive. And we have a place to come home to," the Biloxi woman said while trying to rid her yard of some of its weeds.
However, MEMA director Mike Womack said over time, trailer tenants, and Mississippi leaders realized the obvious.
"Travel trailers are just not a good alternative," he admitted.
Womack and MEMA knew people stuck in trailers deserved a better option. What they came up with was the Mississippi Alternative Housing program. Small, shotgun style cottages are about to be available for people who've been in a FEMA trailer since right after the storm.
"It's much more livable. Nice little unit. Looks like a little beach cottage," said Womack.
Some of the cottage designs are 400 square feet. Others have 800 square feet of living space. Once properties are found and the cottages are erected, FEMA trailer tenants who are randomly chosen can stay in the cottages for up to two years.
Here's the problem. Mississippi still has 27,000 FEMA trailers. Yet this $280 million program will only produce about 4,000 cottages.
"The important thing is to use this as an evaluation for future disasters," said Womack. "Maybe we can convince FEMA that there is a better way. Don't just purchase travel trailers. Also look at other alternatives, particularly for catastrophic events."
Womack is holding a public hearing on the new form of temporary housing Monday night at Bay Waveland Middle School. Harrison County's meeting is Tuesday night at the Coast Coliseum. And Jackson County's alternative housing forum is Wednesday at the Gautier Convention Center. All three meetings begin at 6:00.