Help is on the way for those Calcasieu Parish residents approved for direct housing assistance through FEMA.
FEMA is currently moving travel trailers and preparing mobile homes for transport, into the parish, according to FEMA representative Jerry Stoller, who spoke at a news briefing Wednesday.
The mobile homes are being staged in Alexandria for inspection. Stoller said they met HUD standards when purchased and were used in 2016 to house victims of flooding in the eastern part of the state.
Calls are already being made, morning, noon and night to residents who have applied. Those called will be screened by phone to determine family size and whether there are any special needs with regard to housing.
Through the direct housing assistance program, residents will either be granted temporary use of a FEMA travel trailer or mobile home or FEMA will cover the lease on an existing FEMA property. Ideally, these housing units will be set up on a resident’s property. But, Stoller said, FEMA has identified some promising commercial sites. He said placing hundreds of units on a concrete pad in close proximity to each other would be a “last resort.”
Stoller said for those who do not qualify for direct housing or rental assistance, FEMA is working with local officials to identify philanthropic solutions.
FEMA also offers rental assistance. Those who qualify must submit a signed lease agreement, as well as a receipt, each month, for the 18-month assistance period.
FEMA representative Liz Redfern said an inspection will be done at the homes of residents who apply who are uninsured. She said because of COVID-19, inspections are being done remotely and then an additional inspection is done by “drive-by” to make sure FEMA is properly identifying homes that are destroyed or that have major damage and are not livable.
“That’s really the criteria to get a direct housing referral,” she said. Within Calcasieu Parish, more than 7,600 have been approved for direct housing assistance. Redfern said that as of Tuesday night, FEMA has made nearly 2,300 initial screening calls to residents who have applied for the housing assistance. She said about 500 said they don’t require assistance presently because they have found other options, like an RV or living with family or friends.
Redfern said that those residents can reactivate their requests if the situation changes. She said there are about 243 residents, mostly in Calcasieu Parish, who are in a precarious situation. That means their temporary housing is unsustainable, for instance, someone who is living in their car. She said assisting those residents is a priority.
Calcasieu Parish Administrator Bryan Beam reported that the parish and most of its municipalities have issued executive orders or amended ordinances that restrict temporary housing use for a period of time. He said many have also waived permitting fees.
To qualify for the rental, housing, or any other FEMA assistance, residents must register at www.disasterassistance.gov, through the FEMA app, or by calling 800-621-3362. If the contact information for residents who have applied changes, they must call the number to have the new contact information recorded.