Special Report: Without A Home
PORT ARANSAS — People recovering from Hurricane Harvey along the Texas coast are still living in hotels while hundreds of Federal Emergency Management Agency trailers sit empty.
FEMA, a federal agency which responds to disaster areas like floods, hurricanes and earthquakes, is still active in Nueces County. The agency’s purpose is to get people on a road to recovery.
Residents in the small town of Port Aransas on Padre Island have a long road ahead. They are still picking up the pieces from the storm.
“I have 36 FEMA staying at Shark Reef resort,” said Mary Salg.
Salg is the manager at the hotel. She said the people staying at her hotel have all lost their homes in the hurricane.
“They are all locals. Everybody that’s here is a local from Port Aransas,” she said.
The people staying at hotels in Port Aransas are on direct temporary housing assistance through FEMA. But the help doesn’t last forever.
The victims say they don’t know when their temporary housing will end.
“I’ve actually watched it be cut off the next day so everybody is living in high stress right now. It’s pretty sad,” Salg said.
Jackie Linn, a Rio Grande Valley native, is one of those staying at Shark Reef.
“My home was demolished in Hurricane Harvey,” Linn said.
Linn said she qualified for a FEMA trailer, but, as of January, she’s still waiting.
“I think FEMA has been great as far as giving me a place to stay. It’s been a colossal failure as far as communicating with us,” Linn said. “All these people in Port think that trailers are coming but FEMA trailers aren’t coming.”
The trailers are manufactured mobile homes. Anyone in the disaster area can apply for help.
FEMA inspectors will then get sent to the home to determine if it’s livable. And if you have $17,000 dollars’ worth of damage, you can qualify for direct temporary housing assistance.
That can be in the form of direct leasing or a mobile home.
According to FEMA, around 39,000 families were eligible for some kind of FEMA assistance in Nueces County as of January. Only 18 families were qualified for a manufactured home, also known as a FEMA trailer.
Nearly 2,000 trailers were sent to Chase Field in Beeville, Texas. The town is just 60 miles from Port Aransas.
By mid-January, 400 trailers were sent out to people along the coast, four months after Hurricane Harvey hit.
“As mayor of Port Aransas, I have to say (FEMA) have been a dismal failure when it comes to the housing issue. Totally disappointing,” said Charles Bujan.
Bujan said he is giving up on FEMA. He told CHANNEL 5 NEWS he tried to get answers for his citizens.
“I said this to them to their face. It appears that when they sign an applicant up and they go through that process, they are looking for ways to deny that person for any help,” Bujan said. “So, these people are going to be homeless.”
Those thoughts keep Bujan up at night. FEMA has a different view on how it handled the recovery.
“This is the best recovery that I have been a part of in the last 10 years,” said FEMA Federal Coordinating Officer Kevin Hannes.
Hannes gave an update to the Nueces County commissioners’ court in the beginning of January. He said residents may be frustrated with the pace and amount of paperwork that’s needed.
Nueces County Commissioner Brent Chesney grilled Hannes and told him the application process is daunting.
The county commissioners want something changed to the application process before another disaster hits.
FEMA told CHANNEL 5 NEWS the agency always strives for continuous improvement on disaster services. The average amount of money that each family received from FEMA was $4,000.
Linn said she was able to come up with a backup plan in case the FEMA trailer doesn’t come. But she’s the exception.
One woman CHANNEL 5 NEWS spoke to off camera at Shark Reed said her van may be her next home once her assistance runs out.
Nueces County Commissioner Chesney said a non-profit organization was able to raise money and get around 35 trailers to people in Port Aransas.