FEMA residents face deadline to leave trailers


Published: Wednesday, November 1, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, November 1, 2006 at 12:00 a.m.
PUNTA GORDA - Dozens of people left homeless by Hurricane Charley in 2004 faced a midnight Tuesday deadline to move out of a Federal Emergency Management Agency trailer park.
Many have said they still don't know where they would go.
FEMA spokesman Michael Widomski said Tuesday there likely wouldn't be immediate efforts to evict the remaining residents of what is known as "FEMA City." He said FEMA is still working with them to find other housing.
"We'll probably give the dust a chance to settle and see who remains and see what their situations are," Widomski said.
FEMA could not give the exact number of remaining trailer park residents because people were still moving out Tuesday.
Bob Hebert, Charlotte County's hurricane recovery director, said it doesn't appear the agency will take any drastic measures to remove people from the units still occupied.
"From what I understand, the local FEMA folks have not had any definitive direction from the main office to take strong action, but it's coming," Hebert told the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.
FEMA likely will have to go through the local or state courts to evict people, a process that could take weeks, he said.
Many remaining residents said they had been looking for somewhere else to live but couldn't find anything affordable. Hurricane Charley in August 2004 destroyed much of Charlotte County's low-income housing stock. Other trailer park residents are elderly or disabled.
"I can't even imagine what we're going to do," said Heather Badgwell, 26, who shares a trailer with her fiance and their infant son. "We don't have a car. We can't even afford a phone. How can we come up with first and last month's rent plus a deposit for water and electricity?"
Of the 551 trailers that originally lined the dusty field beside the county jail, only 41 are left. Workers already had torn down the playground and uprooted street signs.
Federal and county officials have been talking about a way to let the county buy the trailers, or give them to some remaining residents. FEMA said Tuesday that those discussions were ongoing.
FEMA initially promised to provide free temporary housing for 18 months, and allowed residents to rent the trailers at reduced cost for an additional six months.

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