Proposed deadline for FEMA trailers draws protests

Published 8:44 pm Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Biloxi City Council was set to vote Tuesday on setting a deadline for 41 households to move out of trailers FEMA supplied after Hurricane Katrina, despite opposition from human rights organizations and the ACLU.

If the ordinance is approved, Biloxi would become one of the last cities along the Mississippi Gulf Coast to require the removal of FEMA trailers, said Jerry Creel, the city’s community development director. Creel said the proposal is about public safety.

Hurricane season has begun, and the FEMA trailers do not meet city requirements that the structures be designed to withstand 140-mph winds.

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The proposed ordinance would end the temporary permits issued for trailers and campers in the wake of the 2005 storm. Creel said the ordinance would go into effect in 30 days. Residents would then have 30 more days to move.

Earlier this month, the Obama administration announced plans to let residents purchase their homes for as little as $1.

Creel said residents who keep their trailers will have to move them to a lot for mobile homes or recreational vehicles, where they’ll be charged a fee.

He said the city would work with trailer dwellers who are close to moving into permanent housing. However, he said about 20 households “have taken no action whatsoever.”

“Without a deadline, there is no sense of urgency,” Creel said.

Trinh Le of the Hope Community Development Agency said advocacy groups are urging council members to vote against the ordinance.

She said some residents have nowhere else to live. For others, it creates another barrier to rebuilding their homes four years after the storm.

Residents like Chuck Rogers live in the trailers on the same property where their homes are being renovated.

“I’m just going to have to move, too. It’s a shame you have to move off your property,” Rogers said.

Le said her agency and other organizations, including Oxford America, Mississippi NAACP, Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and the U.S. Human Rights Network, want city officials to push for more resources for storm victims.

“We want them to help them rebuild their homes so they no longer need the FEMA trailers,” Le said.