CHARLESTON, W.Va. - For people displaced by this year's flooding disasters, the process of returning to restored housing can be drawn-out. But, steadily, affected individuals and families are moving from temporary to permanent housing, their hopes for more normal living realized.
Livable housing is the aim of the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) disaster housing program. It may start with temporary rental housing, a travel trailer or a mobile home, but the aim is to have displaced residents achieve permanent housing plans in no more than 18 months.
The housing situation following last June's presidentially-declared disaster - known as the "Memorial Day storms" - illustrates how FEMA works with displaced families and individuals until their former homes are either repaired or replaced.
Of 381 West Virginians who moved into FEMA-provided travel trailers after the spring storms, 91, or 24 percent, have moved to permanent housing. Of those, the largest percentage have moved back into their repaired homes. Often travel trailers are placed next door to damaged homes so that the owners can be on hand as the repairs - carried out with funds from insurance or FEMA grants - proceed.
Nine people moved from travel trailers to a FEMA mobile home. Others used insurance or disaster aid funds to purchase new homes. Currently, 262 people displaced by the Memorial Day storms are living in FEMA mobile homes. The aim for all of them is to have permanent housing plans completed within 18 months.
Similar housing options are available for people displaced by this July's storms or September's Hurricane Ivan disaster.
"We stay with people until they are comfortably and permanently housed," said Lou Botta, FEMA's federal coordinating officer. "The numbers from Memorial Day, July and Ivan will keep growing. That's the nature of FEMA's continuing commitment to people made temporarily homeless by disasters."
On March 1, 2003, FEMA became part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. FEMA's continuing mission within the new department is to lead the effort to prepare the nation for all hazards and effectively manage federal response and recovery efforts following any national incident. FEMA also initiates proactive mitigation activities, trains first responders, and manages Citizen Corps, the National Flood Insurance Program and the U.S. Fire Administration.