From Texas to Florida, emergency response teams are helping victims of Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma to rebuild their lives. As noted in a two-part column last year (here’s Part 1 and Part 2), the FEMA trailers deployed in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita turned out to be disastrously unhealthy for their occupants. FEMA has since improved its design for mobile temporary housing so the units no longer contain formaldehyde. But unlike 2005, when FEMA deployed nearly 150,000 trailers, this time only 1700 trailers are available.
Why? FEMA has changed its strategy for emergency relief. Now the agency focuses on getting displaced residents into existing permanent housing, ideally their own homes, by writing checks to subsidize quick repairs and retrofits that might mitigate future flood damage. FEMA also pays for the residents to stay in hotels and apartments until they can move back home, ideally within a couple months.
The new trailers cost FEMA $40,000 to $60,000 apiece, reports this Columbian article.(Models vary in size from one-bedroom to three-bedroom.) For comparison, the old trailers cost about $10,000 a pop, and a Tumbleweed Tiny House starts at $62,950. FEMA now deploys trailers only as a last resort. Residents whose houses are a complete loss (there were far more of these in 2005 than in 2017) or who can’t find temporary housing close to their jobs are candidates for getting a trailer. Although the trailers are still meant to be temporary, they’re now built to the HUD standards for permanent housing in case that’s what they become.
How Can I Help?
- Donate money. “Cash is best,” says FEMA literature – it gives relief organizations maximum flexibility and costs nothing to transport. The American Red Cross (http://redcross.org/) and the Hand in Hand telethon (http://handinhand2017.com/ or tune in tonight, 9/12/17, at 8pm) are good vehicles for putting your gift in the right hands.
- Donate blood. The nation faced a blood shortage even before the hurricanes, and the American Red Cross has recently offered $5 gift cards to anybody who gives blood. Make an appointment at an upcoming blood drive near you: http://redcrossblood.org/.
- Join the Hurricane Workforce. FEMA has temporary jobs available to ease the herculean workload of providing relief. Apply here: https://careers.fema.gov/hurricane.