BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WMBB) — More than two years after hundreds of families were displaced by Hurricane Michael, FEMA’s temporary housing program in Bay County has come to an end.
The program officially ended on Thursday, and while more than 900 households and individuals who participated in the program have been able to find housing by now, some continue to search for a solution.
“What are we going to do?”
That’s the question Callaway resident Willie Graham is asking as the program ends. He lives in a FEMA mobile home with his wife and two daughters; they are one of around 20 other families and individuals still looking for more permanent housing after the hurricane destroyed their home in 2018.
“You’re thinking about your children,” Graham said. “Are we going to have to sleep in the car? It’s almost like a David and Goliath type thing and FEMA is Goliath.”
He said miscommunication between FEMA and disaster case workers during the COVID-19 pandemic has led to thousands of dollars in penalties and the inability to purchase the mobile home from the agency like one hundred other households have done. He said he hopes for a resolution quickly with FEMA agents, who he said have not been consistent on their end.
“It has hurt my faith in our government,” Graham said. “One person is saying one thing and, but it’s not the truth and then somebody is saying something else. If you can’t trust them then who can you trust?”
Down the road at FEMA site on the Bay County Fairgrounds off of Sherman Avenue, resident Billie Brown said the tension is at an all time high for those who are left in the park.
“Nobody’s really got much to say,” Brown said. “They just sit there with their head hanging thinking to themselves, what am I going to do? Where am I going to go?”
According to FEMA, the program has been extended multiple times, and while trailer residents won’t be evicted after the February 11th deadline, they’ll have to pay late fees determined on a case-by-case basis. Some residents have said they are already paying thousands of dollars a month to rent the trailers and mobile homes.
Brown said after the storm and during the pandemic, finding a job has been difficult and finding affordable housing has been even harder.
“I hate to say it but I’m really losing faith and hope,” she said. “It’s brought a lot of stress to a lot of people that don’t need it. They’re having a hard enough time.”
The Rebuild Bay County program is working to help any qualifying residents find more permanent housing as FEMA housing assistance ends.
Click here to find out more about Rebuild Bay County.