‘We don’t really have a time period.’ FEMA trailers still an unknown for people in need

Reporter: Michael Hudak Writer: Matthew Seaver
Published: Updated:

Stuck waiting with no place to go. It is the situation for many people who lost almost everything in Hurricane Ian and are waiting on housing assistance.

For two months and counting, people have been waiting on trailers to live in from FEMA or the state, but the steps to get to that point are endless.

A spokesperson from FEMA said Thursday that they don’t know when the trailers are going to get here. They have no time frame for that, but he says they are working as hard as they can.

There is some hope, though. Neighbors in Island Park say trailers were brought in by FEMA.

One woman applied for assistance, and FEMA said her situation was bad enough that she deserved a trailer.

She said they came out and painted lines on her driveway where the trailer was supposed to go, but it still hasn’t arrived. Until it does, she says she’s homeless.

“Please give me my trailer so I have a place to live,” said Patsy Howell.

Howell has been homeless since the hurricane hit.

“I’m staying at an Airbnb. And the county gave me money for an Airbnb because I thought the trailer was coming. I didn’t apply for the next set of funding to move somewhere else,” said Howell.

Like hundreds of others, she applied for female assistance, and for a moment, she felt like one of the lucky ones.

About four weeks ago, FEMA came out to her house and marked her driveway up.

“These little lines right here are where they mark saying this is where the trailer is going to be put,” said Howell.

Lines marking where a FEMA trailer would go. (Credit: WINK News)

FEMA was demarcating it for a trailer as part of its temporary housing program.

“I signed a contract with them that they were going to be delivering me a trailer to be able to live on my home. And they said it should be within the week. It did not come within the week,” Howell said.

Since then, she hasn’t heard a word, and she hasn’t seen a trailer.

WINK News called FEMA and asked them when are the trailers going to get here.

“We don’t really have a time period. Those take a lot more time to put in place because we have to inspect the site to determine if it’s even feasible to put it there. And then, of course, we have to abide by all local codes and ordinances in order to place it there. It is not something that happens quickly,” said Michael Wade, a FEMA spokesperson.

WINK News reached out to the state of Florida, too, because they announced their own statewide temporary housing program to supplement FEMA’s.

The state’s emergency management director, Kevin Guthrie, never got back to us, but a spokesperson for their office said they have over 1,200 applications and expect to roll out some of their trailers sometime this week.

For now, Howell is just trying to keep her spirits high because she almost didn’t survive the storm.

“I was saved by my neighbor. And because I was saved by my neighbor, I figured I’m here for a reason, whatever it is,” said Howell.

“We all need help, and we’re not getting what we need,” said Patti Hansen, one of the many people who applied for FEMA assistance. “FEMA has dropped the ball here.”

Neither Howell nor Hansen wants to fight FEMA for assistance.

“It’s just doubly frustrating. You have to fight everything. You have to fight insurance. You have to fight the FEMA,” said Hansen.

Some people, like Diane Key, have a trailer.

“They’ve applied for a trailer, and there’s no help. They’re not getting anything, they’re not getting any response. They’re not getting what they need,” said Key.

Key didn’t get her trailer from FEMA. She got it herself because she couldn’t afford to wait for FEMA to bring one.

“You have solutions that are being talked about, but you don’t have the implementation of those solutions, and that’s a problem,” said Key. “At the time that we bought this, we didn’t know that they were doing trailers. But having said that, it’s better that we bought one because we’d still be waiting for one.”

There are other options, too. Unite Florida is the state’s first-ever temporary housing program, designed to supplement FEMA. For it to work, it has to work with FEMA.

WINK News asked FEMA spokesperson Michael Wade how that is all working.

“To be very honest with you, I don’t understand how their program is working,” said Wade. “How those two programs tie together, I just don’t have those. I don’t have that technical knowledge as to how we’re going to end, how the state’s going to implement their program, and how we, how we tie ours back into theirs at some point.”

WINK News will continue to follow up with state and federal agencies to determine when people in need can get a trailer.

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