FEMA villages returning to Charlotte County

Reporter: Gail Levy Writer: Paul Dolan

Leaders in Charlotte County are transforming temporary sites into FEMA villages after the commission unanimously voted in favor of the FEMA villages. This comes despite a commissioner telling WINK News he didn’t want to create these villages because of all the crime they attracted after Hurricane Charley.

As of Tuesday, there are still more than 500 households that qualify for FEMA housing assistance. FEMA said they wouldn’t be able to help them without a group site in place.

One of the sites to be converted to a FEMA village. CREDIT: WINK News

For example, people living in apartments or condos don’t have a piece of property to put the trailer on, so they need a group site.

Charlotte County staff said there could be a few Lee county households ending up in one of the two Charlotte County group sites. FEMA also mentioned the county learned a lot from the havoc in the FEMA villages after Charley, and they said they’re better prepared for safety and security.

“We need to have FEMA prioritize our residents at these locations. And I don’t know if we can get that in writing, but we have too many people here to let others come in from out of the area. I know that sound cold, but I’m sorry, I’m gonna be a little selfish, and take care of our own first, Charlotte County Commissioner Christopher Constance said.

It’s hard to say when exactly people will move into and live in the FEMA villages. One of the sites needs to be cleared out, while the other needs to have the trailers hooked up.

When the FEMA villages sprung up after Hurricane Charley, those villages were home to around 400 or 500 households. Making matters worse, when survivors moved out, crime, domestic violence, and drugs crept in.

Trailers set up after Hurricane Ian. CREDIT: WINK News

A similar situation happened four years ago after Hurricane Micahel ravaged the panhandle. For that reason, Charlotte County Commissioner Constance went on WINK News soon after Ian and said they hoped to avoid a FEMA village.

“I don’t think we’re interested in rehashing the FEMA village that we had after Charlie, I think that’s one of the lessons we learned was that really wasn’t manageable. One of the things that we’re proposing, and I think is going to get traction is we want to allow folks to have either a trailer or an RV in their driveway and allow them to live on their property as it’s being reconstructed,” Commissioner Constance said.

After Hurricanes Charley and Michael, many people had similar experiences feeling as if they couldn’t leave their trailers without a gun or knife for protection. Neighbors living a couple of blocks away also have safety concerns but understand these people need a place to stay.

“We’ve heard that sometimes crime also comes up with those types of situations. And that would be the only thing I worry about. But you know, as a temporary thing, I don’t think I’d be that be… People have to have a place to live. So you got to be mindful of that,” Charlotte County resident, Thomas Jones, said.

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