ABC News Article About Wasted Housing
The total number of people living in FEMA issued travel trailers and mobile homes continues to decline. As of Sept. 29, nearly 93,000 people are still housed in 34,552 FEMA provided trailers in Mississippi. Since the FEMA trailers have been issued, 12,224 have been returned, according to FEMA officials contacted by GCN. This means people are returning to their homes or finding alternative living resources. There are still some people receiving FEMA trailers. This is because some apartments are being rebuilt or have been shut down that people were living in since the hurricane. This is particularly true for some elderly Coast residents.
Available Housing for Katrina Evacuees Caught in Federal Red Tape
VA Offered FEMA Thousands of Single-Family Homes; Deal Finalized Four Months After Storm Hit
Jan. 13, 2006 — Since Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast in August, evacuees have lived in shelters, trailers and hotels, desperate for long-term housing. ABC News has learned that housing that could have been provided almost immediately to those displaced was instead tied up in bureacractic red tape.
Brazella Briscoe of New Orleans has resided in a cramped hotel room with his wife and son for months.
"If you were on vacation, this would be lovely — like I said, the people are absolutely wonderful — but living here is another situation," he said.
Two weeks after Katrina hit, ABC News has learned, the Department of Veterans Affairs offered the Federal Emergency Management Agency 7,000 government-owned, single-family homes.
But those houses sat empty for three months while bureaucrats squabbled over paperwork.
"Nobody could break through this bureaucracy and get this done in a week or two days and get these people into these homes, and it's just disgraceful," said Jerry Hauer, an emergency management expert and ABC News consultant.
The plan was to provide Katrina victims single-family housing for 18 months, free of charge. But critics say it is a classic tale of the government's inability to respond quickly to those in need.
'Example of Absolute Incompetence'
"Ridiculous," said Rep. Benny Thompson, D-Miss. "Katrina occurred in August. Here we are in January, and we are still going through this paperwork shuffling by bureaucrats when we have families in dire need of housing. It's another example of absolute incompetence."
According to a memo obtained by ABC News, last October the VA tried to prepare houses for some evacuees "as soon as possible," but the Department of Homeland Security Inspector General's Office ordered them to "cease work" until an official agreement could be signed by the two agencies.
No houses were occupied even though officials acknowledged "housing needs [were] urgent."
The VA has purchased thousands of single-family houses all over the country mostly through defaulted mortgages.
Today the VA did not respond to a request for an interview, nor did the agency answer questions ABC News has been asking for weeks.
FEMA officials issued a statement saying they had worked hard to provide housing to 700,000 families, and that they are trying to "rapidly" fill the government-owned houses.
When the joint FEMA-VA agreement was finally signed in early December, there were 2,000 homes available, but not a single one was occupied.
Briscoe says he wishes he could have been in a house a long time ago.
"If we could get a home to get to some type of normalcy, we would certainly appreciate it," he said. "It does absolutely frustrate me to know that they do have these amount of homes available to people and didn't tell anybody."
As of tonight, no government official could say how many Katrina victims are in VA housing.
ABC News' Pierre Thomas filed this report for "World News Tonight."