Home / Collier County demands answers on when FEMA trailers will arrive

Collier County demands answers on when FEMA trailers will arrive

Published: Updated:

Many people are asking when FEMA will provide trailers to people who lost their homes during Hurricane Ian. The agency still won’t say, and people in Southwest Florida are becoming frustrated with the lack of communication.

Wednesday marks one month since Ian overwhelmed the region, with storm surge and powerful winds destroying thousands of homes. Hundreds are living in shelters, and life there is not easy. People in the North Fort Myers shelter continue to send WINK News pictures of what they call unbearable conditions, with no response from the company the state hired to run the place, and families staying in the shelter at the North Collier Regional Park got a scare of their own when they saw a sign incorrectly declaring the shelter would be closed.

Collier County commissioners made it clear they’re also tired of waiting for the federal government to help those with nowhere to go. Since FEMA isn’t talking, Collier County Emergency Services Director Dan Summers was on the receiving end of questions about trailers at a meeting on Tuesday. He didn’t have any answers, either. At one point, the commissioners made a point of saying they don’t blame him for the lack of communication with FEMA.

Then Commissioner Penny Taylor asked: If and when those trailers come, who will actually get one?

“FEMA looks at things such as insured loss, absence of insured loss, the condition of the property; they look at the income, they look at extenuating circumstances such as medical condition or frailty, so they have a process for evaluating that,” Summers said. “I don’t know every question in that process, but it is obviously an assessment on a case-by-case basis.”

Those criteria Summers mapped out apply to everyone who needs temporary housing, not just people in Collier County. The county’s own assessment suggests it needs at least 1,500 trailers, but that might be a big ask; Summers told commissioners that FEMA is talking about sending just 5,000 to 6,000 trailers to the entire state.

What’s the hold-up on sending trailers? Summers offered a theory.

“FEMA has often had numerous legal challenges when it comes to temporary housing,” Summers said. “You will find them very guarded when it comes to ADA compliance.”

“I don’t mean to interrupt you, but the public is about done hearing that,” said Collier County Commission Chairman Bill McDaniel in response. “There is no argument that there are people who are displaced. And, so, maybe if this board wants to do something, maybe it’s something that we can have a look at from a community standpoint to be able to assist with the process.”

FEMA has total control over temporary housing after a natural disaster. The agency alone will decide who gets trailers and when. But the Collier County commissioners did decide to send FEMA a letter asking that they deploy trailers to individual properties instead of creating a trailer park.