Brock Long has repeatedly failed to address the housing needs of the lowest-income disaster survivors including people with disabilities, seniors, families with children, and those experiencing homelessness prior to a disaster. Under Long’s tenure, FEMA has been inexplicably, inexcusably and repeatedly slow to assist the lowest income disaster survivors meet their most basic need: a safe, affordable place to call home.
Mr. Long’s inaction has had shameful and heartbreaking consequences, leaving the most vulnerable disaster survivors with little choice but to return to uninhabitable homes, sleep in cars or tents, double or triple up with other low-income families, or, in the worst cases, become homeless. In Florida, 500 families sleep in FEMA-provided tents while awaiting housing assistance for months. The last FEMA shelter closed in Chico, CA, on January 31, with nearly 100 people still struggling to find safe places to sleep. Many of the nearly 500 additional California wildfire disaster survivors who were living in cars or trailers in a parking lot were forced to leave if their vehicles did not meet certain standards or they were unable to pay the $40 daily fee. In the Carolinas, families displaced from their communities, jobs, and social supports likewise continue to struggle to find affordable places to live while they get back on their feet. More than a year after Hurricane Harvey, the number of people experiencing homelessness in the Houston area has increased for the first time in seven years. About 18% of the people living unsheltered cited the hurricane – and FEMA’s lack of assistance - as their trigger into homelessness. Homelessness rates also increased by double digits from 2017 to 2018 in both Connecticut and Massachusetts6, where large numbers of Puerto Ricans fled after Hurricane Maria, with no adequate housing assistance from FEMA.
President Trump should use this resignation as an opportunity to appoint someone who is up for the job and who is committed to undoing the harm caused by Mr. Long. And Congress must hold FEMA accountable for its failure to meet the basic housing needs of people with the lowest incomes and to formulate and implement reforms to ensure an equitable disaster housing recovery.
About National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC): Established in 1974 by Cushing N. Dolbeare, the National Low Income Housing Coalition is dedicated solely to achieving socially just public policy that assures people with the lowest incomes in the United States have affordable and decent homes.