Looking Beyond the Trailer Park for Katrina Victims
NOAH ADAMS, host:
It's DAY TO DAY from NPR News. I'm Noah Adams.
A brief update now on Hurricane Rita. The National Hurricane Center reports Rita has reached Category 5 intensity. The storm is expected to hit the coast of Texas around the cities of Houston and Galveston. Galveston has ordered a mandatory evacuation. The storm may change course and hit southern Louisiana. Parts of New Orleans that had been reopened are being once again evacuated.
But we turn now to the aftermath of the hurricane that battered the region three weeks ago. The death toll from Hurricane Katrina topped 1,000 today. The search continues for more bodies. Some 200,000 people have also been left homeless along the Gulf Coast. The effort to find them new places to live will be the largest resettlement project in American history. The Federal Emergency Management Agency says it's planning to use all kinds of options, including trailer parks, old military bases, campgrounds and even cruise ships. NPR's Adam Hochberg reports now from Mobile, Alabama.
ADAM HOCHBERG reporting:
For the next several months, home for Michael Goldman's family will be a 25-foot travel trailer.
Mr. MICHAEL GOLDMAN (Hurricane Katrina Survivor): All right. This is what you want ...(unintelligible) this, I think.
Unidentified Woman: Yes.
HOCHBERG: Goldman, his wife and nine-year-old daughter are moving into a FEMA trailer park near Coden, Alabama, unpacking the few possessions they own after Katrina destroyed their house and almost everything in it. The Goldmans had been living in Red Cross shelters since the storm and spent a few nights sleeping in their truck, so they're grateful even for this one-bedroom trailer.
Mr. GOLDMAN: It ain't bad. Not as bad as what I thought it'd be. I thought it'd be like a noisy little place right here, but it's quiet. I like it.
HOCHBERG: In the past few days, about 40 families have moved into trailers here, white metal vehicles lined up closely side by side along a circular gravel street. This park, in eyeshot of the waters of Mobile Bay, is normally a haven for vacationing RV owners, and because of that it has amenities unusual for emergency housing, like a playground and swimming pool. Still, Linda Shelly(ph), who helps manage the park, knows it won't necessarily be easy for evacuees to get used to living here.
Ms. LINDA SHELLY (Trailer Park Manager): In the crisis, everybody's been thrown together, and a lot of these people, they have their pets. One man down here on the very end has six small yappy dogs. You know, the transition from living in a home where you have space, you know, rules and life are different.
HOCHBERG: All told, FEMA plans to use more than a hundred thousand trailers and mobile homes to house evacuees from the Gulf Coast. About 500 of the vehicles are arriving each day in Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas, but FEMA says even that won't meet the needs of everybody displaced during Katrina. So spokeswoman Lynn Keating says the agency has been forced to look at other more unconventional options to provide temporary shelter.
Ms. LYNN KEATING (FEMA Spokeswoman): We're doing travel trailers, hotels and motels, campsites. There are a lot of creative options that have been developed for displaced people.
HOCHBERG: One of the most creative is obvious to anybody who drives through downtown Mobile, Alabama. Docked on the city's waterfront is a 700-foot cruise ship, one of three FEMA has rented from Carnival Cruise Lines for a total of $192 million. Evacuee Alan Lambert(ph), who lost his house in Pascagoula, Mississippi, moved onto the ship with his wife and four children this week.
Mr. ALAN LAMBERT (Evacuee): Oh, it's beautiful in there. The food is unreal. It's like yesterday, we had inch-thick pork chops, and you have an assortment of everything. You couldn't ask for nothing better.
HOCHBERG: FEMA officials are quick to note that the government is providing just rooms and food on the ship, not entertainment or gambling or any of the other luxuries you might expect on an actual cruise. They also say the ship, like the travel trailers and campsites, is intended to provide only temporary housing. Eventually, all evacuees will be expected to find permanent homes, a process that, after Katrina, could take some families years. Adam Hochberg, NPR News, Mobile, Alabama.
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