Beginning tomorrow, the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development will mobilize vans from state agencies to pick up residents deemed ineligible by FEMA at their hotels. They will then be taken to regional staging areas and transported to emergency shelters.
New Orleans is by no means the only place prey to (Not In My Back Yard) NIMBY squabbles. Voices have been raised against trailer parks throughout Louisiana. Of the state's 64 parishes, 32 have banned any new group trailer sites in the wake of the storm, while 24 have approved them with certain conditions or restrictions, according to FEMA. Only eight parishes have asked FEMA to bring in group parks with no conditions.
In neighboring Mississippi and Alabama, the governors relaxed their codes, making it easier for FEMA to set up trailer park sites, according to James McIntyre, an agency spokesman. Stressing that FEMA "cannot place units without state and local approval," he said Louisiana has in some cases helped grease the wheels to help get trailers, but more often the wheels are stuck. In the past four months, more than 100 potential trailer sites have been yanked from consideration, in some cases by elected officials, decisions that McIntyre said had cost the state about 17,000 trailers.
But local officials are anything but united in their views, particularly in New Orleans, the jurisdiction with the greatest need. When the City Council passed an ordinance giving members the final say on trailer placement, Nagin vetoed it, declaring the measure moot because a declared state of emergency gives the executive the exclusive power on temporary housing decisions. Last week the council unanimously overrode that veto. A possible court battle looms.
And then there is the other problem:
BATON ROUGE -- More than 85 percent of Hurricane Katrina evacuee families housed in hotels in Louisiana have received Federal Emergency Management Agency checks to pay for apartments or other housing, but have not moved from their hotel rooms.
Besides picking up the tab for hotel rooms, FEMA has approved checks totaling $2,358 -- $786 a month for three months -- for about 8,500 of the 9,890 households in 9,701 Louisiana hotel and motel rooms as of Monday morning. FEMA records show 18,789 individuals in the rooms.
"The first three months' payments may not have been spent appropriately," said FEMA public information officer Kelly Hudson, since so many families have not moved into apartments or houses. "We have gone the extra mile but they need to be participants in their own recovery."