Daily progress continues to be made as a federally mandated “End of Program” date of March 12, 2010 approaches for all occupants of temporary disaster housing units provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in the aftermath of Hurricane Ike.

FEMA is working closely with occupants and voluntary organizations to assist all households living in the temporary housing units to take advantage of the resources currently available to assist them in making progress on their permanent housing plans and transition to more permanent housing.

FEMA reported to The Record that as of press time Tuesday, there are 390 families still living in FEMA housing units in Orange County – including 215 in Bridge City and 120 in the city of Orange.

“Our FEMA teams are providing information on available rental units and additional resources through voluntary agencies,” said Hurricane Ike Recovery Manager Brad Harris. “It is everyone’s goal, at every level, to help all occupants of these units that were designed for temporary living, to move forward in their recovery and find permanent housing before the end of program.”

Occupants have several options in transitioning to more permanent safe, secure and sanitary housing, including buying their FEMA unit, receiving additional FEMA funds if choosing to rent elsewhere, and/or repairing their storm-damaged home, if they are homeowners. 

Out of the more than 3,700 Ike survivors who once occupied temporary housing units during their recovery, less than 1,100 households remain in units today. That number continues to decrease daily as occupants finalize their permanent housing plans and are no longer in need of the temporary units. More than 650 households have purchased their unit, others have returned to their homes, rented elsewhere or rented from one of more than 2,700 rental resources under the Disaster Housing Assistance Program (DHAP) administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Additional resources are available through the state’s 2-1-1 program and local voluntary agencies to help with deposits, furniture, and other unmet needs.

FEMA understands that the end of program date of March 12, 2010, may seem too distant of a date to worry about at this time, but the agency stresses that it takes time to repair or rebuild, find another place to live and move into more permanent housing. Therefore, FEMA encourages everyone to take advantage of the many people, programs and properties available now. 

For some occupants, discontinued use of the temporary disaster housing units may come sooner than the program end date, simply because they are unable to show they have established and are making progress toward a viable, timely and verifiable permanent housing plan, which they agreed to do as part of their licensing agreement signed prior to accepting temporary use of the unit. 

In advance of the temporary housing program end date of March 12, 2010, FEMA is coordinating with voluntary organizations to address the needs of all households in the temporary housing units and especially those that do not have a viable housing plan to be permanently housed by the end of program.

“FEMA is still here and committed to its goal of helping the remaining temporary housing unit occupants recover and move forward,” said Harris. “The program end date is set, so we encourage occupants to continue to work with their caseworkers on their permanent housing plans and to be sure to communicate their needs to FEMA.”

Some of the many organizations active in Hurricane Ike’s recovery are: Area on Aging, Boat People SOS, Catholic Charities, Christian Care, Deep East Texas Council of Governments, East Texas Health Access Networks, Fuller Disaster Recovery, GMC Consultants, Grace, Houston Department of Health and Human Services, Houston Works, ICNA Relief USA Programs, Mainland Children’s Partnership, Nehemiah’s Vision, Neighborhood Centers, Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, Recovery for Ike Survivors Enterprise, Resource, Independence, Support and Empowerment, Salvation Army, SER Texas Gulf Coast, Society of St. Vincent De Paul, Southeast Texas Interfaith Organization, Texas Homeowners Assistance Program, the Gulf Coast Center and United Cerebral Palsy of Greater Houston.