The Bush administration and FEMA are planning to house Hurricane Katrina evacuees in some 300,000 trailers and "mobile" homes. What an awful idea. Mobile home cities are nothing but public housing built on the cheap – why must we revisit that disaster?
In Florida some 1,500 people left homeless by Hurricane Charley are still living in "FEMA City," a desolate subdivision of trailers and mobile homes built on 64 acres between a county jail and Interstate 75. Located far from jobs, real schools and ordinary amenities like restaurants and grocery stores, FEMA City has become another public housing failure.
There are no trees, no shrubs, and only two small playgrounds for several hundred children.
Teenagers have been especially hard-hit – drug use, vandalism,
break-ins and fights are widespread. Young people regularly call FEMA
City a prison.
The troubles got so bad in the spring that the entire camp was
fenced in, a county police substation was set up, and armed security
guards were stationed at the one point where residents were allowed to
enter and exit. Even with that, the number of calls to the county
sheriff’s office was at an all-time high last month – 257 calls that
resulted in 78 police reports, many of them involving domestic
violence, fights, juvenile delinquency and vandalism. In January, there
were just 154 calls and 40 official actions.
FEMA City has only 1,500 residents. Can you imagine how bad things will get if "vast towns of 25,000 or more mobile homes" are built, as is being planned?
Why are we interring people in government camps? Housing vouchers are a much better policy. Let evacuees use their vouchers in any city in the United States. Let them begin to rebuild their lives with decent housing in places where they can find jobs, schools and community.