A report released this week by the Louisiana Justice Institute and the Children’s Defense Fund finds that 55% of surveyed FEMA trailer residents are unsure where they will live and could easily become homeless if their parks are closed as scheduled this month. FEMA has a goal of closing all FEMA-managed group trailer sites by June 1, 2008.
Based on outreach to over 500 residents of FEMA trailer parks and interviews with 150 families conducted in January of this year, No Way to Treat Our People: FEMA Trailer Residents 30 Months after Katrina also finds that monetary assistance from FEMA and the Road Home program often does not cover the full cost of restoring homes damaged by the hurricanes. In the wake of vastly higher post-hurricane rents and the demolition of public housing, renters also report needing additional financial assistance, employment, and help finding affordable housing in order to make a successful transition from the trailer parks.
Only 33% of those surveyed report having health insurance, down from 39% a year ago. This is of particular concern given the health risks posed by the high levels of formaldehyde found in many FEMA trailers. The survey also finds that after being dislocated from their former homes and communities and after years of difficulty finding the assistance needed to restart their lives, nearly all trailer park residents suffer from depression but very few receive mental health services.
The report calls on the federal and Gulf state governments to devise a long-term plan to provide FEMA trailer park residents with safe, affordable housing as well as the healthcare required to cope with complications resulting from formaldehyde exposure.
The full report, which includes descriptions of several trailer parks and the stories of select residents, can be found at www.louisianajusticeinstitute.org/files/all/docs/LJI_FEMA_Trailer_Report_Publication.pdf