JOPLIN, MO(AP)–FEMA says some of the people left homeless by the Joplin tornado could be placed in rental homes nearly an hour’s drive away. The agency also said Monday the area could see a return of trailers like those used in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina.
Because there isn’t much housing left in Joplin, spokeswoman Susie Stonner says FEMA’s first option for housing the thousands of displaced is to find them existing rental housing within a 55-mile radius. Stonner said that despite the distance, putting people in permanent housing is preferable to trailers __ especially in an area
prone to tornadoes and severe weather. Temporary housing will be made available for up to 18 months. Some people along the Gulf Coast still live in FEMA trailers nearly
six years after Hurricane Katrina.
People who lived in the 8,000 structures smashed in the storm have scattered to the homes of friends and relatives or camped out in emergency shelters in the city. Some may leave town __ New Orleans lost nearly one-third of its population after Katrina.
For Penny Musgraves the joy of surviving with her 6 year old daughter is beginning to give way to confusion and anxiety about the future. The 45-year-old mother, who is unemployed and currently living with her daughter at the Red Cross shelter set up at Missouri Southern State University says, “There isn’t much low-income housing. I can’t rent a place. I don’t know what I’m going to do.”
While many of the survivors had insurance, it could be months, if not years, before they can rebuild. Removing the millions of tons of debris and remaking the city’s destroyed infrastructure will likely take well into the summer if not longer. Rebuilding homes can’t start until that work is finished. For low-income residents, the Housing Authority of Joplin provides some housing. But it was not known how many, if any, of the homeless it can accommodate.
Greensburg, Kansas, which was leveled by a tornado in 2007, lost about half its population even though the town was rebuilt. It dropped from 1,574 before the tornado to 777 in 2010.
The weather brought Gerry Guitierrez to Joplin. Now it’s forcing him to leave. “What brought me here? Snow,” said Guitierrez, a 29-year-old massage therapist who arrived in Missouri just last month from San Banito, Texas. “I love the cold weather and the snow. I wanted to stay. Now I’ve got to come up with the money to go back.”
Guitierrez lived in an apartment with a friend. But since his friend’s name was on the lease, not his, he doubts that FEMA will provide for him since he wasn’t a registered resident of Joplin.
“How does it feel being homeless? Honestly, horrible,” he said. “It’s just so bad.”