A look inside Rapides Parish’s FEMA Direct Housing Staging Area

Some families in five parishes qualify for FEMA housing assistance
Published: Oct. 15, 2020 at 6:47 PM CDT
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RAPIDES PARISH, La. (KALB) - Following Hurricane Laura, FEMA is helping some families displaced by the storm. They set up a direct housing staging area, where workers processed several mobile homes and campers. If a family applies for FEMA disaster assistance and gets approved, they would receive a temporary home that fits their family.

There are different sized mobile homes and campers. The five parishes that qualify for FEMA’s direct housing program are Allen, Beauregard, Calcasieu, Cameron, and Vernon. It’s a temporary solution to help recovery go more smoothly.

FEMA spokesperson Craig Browning explained their goal is to help families get back to normal.

“Non-congregant sheltering is something that the state officials are pushing to help with the fact that we are in a COVID-19 environment,” Browning said. “That’s where survivors are being housed in hotel rooms around the area affected. We’ve had to take people as far as New Orleans. We’ve had people in Alexandria. The goal is to bring people back closer to home so that they can begin rebuilding their lives. That’s what’s most important for us. So that they can begin rebuilding their lives and that’s what’s most important to us. I mean it’s powerful, because they’re coming back home. It may not be the home that they’re used to, but now they’re able to begin that rebuilding process.”

After inspectors complete damaged home assessments, Hurricane Laura survivors have until Oct. 27 to apply for FEMA assistance. They can visit this link, download the FEMA app, or call 1-800-621-3362.

The FEMA direct housing unit moving process involves preparation before they get to the survivor.

“It’s a huge undertaking. We can’t just take these units and just drop them off in someone’s yard,” Browning said. “We have to verify that the utilities are in place, the locations are level, sewer, water, and electricity.”

FEMA provides skirting and steps, and ramps if needed for the units. Permitting is required, but FEMA takes care of it. Browning compared it to building a home. The units are all barcoded and paperwork is done along with maintenance checks before they’re sent out. The units come with family kits filled with things like utensils, pillows, and a weather radio.

Browning is asking for patience if you haven’t received your unit yet and you have qualified for a modular or camper unit.

“We know that waiting for a potential direct housing option is stressful,” Browning explained.

If you do not qualify for a modular or camper unit, there are other options. According to Browning, FEMA provides mobile housing (travel trailers, mobile homes, camper like units), direct lease (For example: a rental property that was already on the market in a community within the designated parishes, FEMA would assist with a lease), multi-family direct housing (an available apartment complex building with six to 10 units in it that may need some repairs from damage sustained from Laura. FEMA would enter a contract with the landlord to place people there in return for fixing it up to code standards before people move in).

Browning explained the benefits of FEMA’s direct housing option. “You get to participate in the progress every day. Be part of that rebuilding process and just knowing you are home,” he said. “For some people, that’s just being in the community. For some people, that’s being on their property.”

Browning said for some people just being home helps their psyche especially after a storm like Laura.

“So, it just helps with the overall stress and you can see progress being made.”

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