On behalf of the Disaster Housing Recovery Coalition (DHRC) of nearly 800 local, state, and national organizations, NLIHC President and CEO Diane Yentel sent a letter to FEMA on October 26 urging the agency to take immediate action to address survivors’ severe and pressing housing needs related to Hurricanes Michael and Florence. The DHRC letter urges the agency to implement the Disaster Housing Assistance Program (DHAP) and immediately provide shelter options like trailers or manufactured housing units.
During a DHRC national call on October 25, Mayor Greg Brudnicki of Panama City spoke about the lack of community assets that could be used to provide temporary shelter for the more than 10,000 displaced residents. FEMA informed Mayor Brudnicki’s staff that there are no available trailers for residents. Mayor Brudnicki stated that FEMA had not taken action to implement any of the creative housing solutions he and his staff had suggested, like using cruise ships or adapting the agency’s Shelter and Temporary Essential Power (STEP) program to help renters avoid displacement. The mayor’s staff also identified 365 vacant hotel rooms that could be used to house survivors, but FEMA had not responded about whether the agency will reimburse the city for these costs. The mayor has also raised concerns about displaced households who may not be eligible for FEMA’s Individual Assistance program for various reasons.
Many displaced residents of a public housing complex in Panama City, FL are camping in the remains of their homes because they have no other place to stay and/or no access to transportation. Legal services groups have been reaching out to residents to combat misinformation and help them learn their rights. With rental options extremely scarce and hotels booked, these tenants can either camp or relocate to a shelter.
The executive director of the Panama City Housing Authority told reporters that half of their 450 homes will be condemned following Hurricane Michael. The housing authority is still determining how many voucher holders will need to relocate from their current homes. Low income tenants in the area are struggling to find viable options for shelter and many are still waiting to hear from FEMA.
The DHRC letter to FEMA also notes that families in the Carolinas continue to face displacement and struggle to find stable, affordable homes more than a month after Hurricane Florence made landfall. A large apartment complex closed in Wilmington, NC, leaving than 1,000 people without homes, and thousands of additional households have been unable to access FEMA’s Transitional Shelter Assistance (TSA) hotel program due to financial barriers.
“We are deeply concerned that FEMA is again failing to address the immediate and longer-term housing needs of low income survivors, leaving thousands of displaced families without the stable, affordable homes they need to fully recover,” Ms. Yentel states in the letter. “Without immediate action by your agency to provide immediate shelter and to activate proven longer-term housing solutions like the Disaster Housing Assistance Program (DHAP), we fear that this dire situation will lead to families having no choice but to return to uninhabitable homes, to sleep in cars or on the streets, or to pay more than half of their income on rent, putting them at higher risk of evictions, and in worst cases, homelessness.”
Read the full letter at: https://bit.ly/2RkvqQF