MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- This month, the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) began the process of closing Zirlott Park in Mobile County as an emergency, short term housing solution for displaced Katrina residents and evacuees. Under agreement with the city of Bayou La Batre, restoration efforts will begin to return the park to its original purpose—as a recreational space for the citizens of Bayou La Batre.
“Zirlott Park served an important function as it allowed us to quickly establish temporary housing in an area that was devastated. Now we can offer several housing options for those that still need our help,” said Alabama Transition Recovery Office Director Jeff Byard. “We are working with each family or household to determine what option best suites their needs. We especially appreciate the cooperation between all parties involved—from city officials to the residents of Zirlott in making this a successful short term housing solution.”
Four options were offered to all Zirlott Park residents to help them find a longer term housing solution. These options are:
- Residents who meet certain criteria may purchase their trailer and move it to a commercial site or to private property with appropriate utility hookups.
- If a resident is eligible for FEMA rental assistance, the resident may choose to use this funding to rent a home or an apartment. FEMA has compiled a list of available rental resources within Mobile County.
- Residents may choose to have their unit moved by FEMA to a commercial trailer park in Alabama with continued FEMA assistance. This choice could provide them access to employment, public transportation and various social services in the local area.
- FEMA has an active volunteer coordination department and will appropriately refer residents who may need assistance beyond what the federal government provides. It is also providing a referral list of organizations around the state that can offer a wide range of assistance that covers housing, jobs and other services.
As one of many volunteer agencies in the area, Lutheran Disaster Response has stepped up to help many Zirlott Park residents who have already moved on with their long term recovery plans. “Our agency is ready to assist any survivor of Hurricane Katrina in developing and executing a long term recovery housing plan,” said John Centamore, Case Work Manager for Lutheran Disaster Response of Bayou La Batre. “As a member of the Mobile County Long Term Recovery committee, we work with the applicants and present their case, if appropriate, for additional financial assistance.”
A specially assigned FEMA task force continues to work with the residents. Each resident has a case worker to assist the resident with their final plans and choosing appropriate housing options.
Zirlott Park has a target closing date of August 1, 2006. FEMA has tasked the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers with making restoration assessments, and efforts to restore the site will begin when the last trailer leaves Alabama’s only FEMA-managed group temporary housing park.
FEMA manages federal response and recovery efforts following any national incident. FEMA also initiates mitigation activities, works with state and local emergency managers, and manages the National Flood Insurance Program. FEMA became part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on March 1, 2003.