Hundreds remain in FEMA trailers 20 months after Hurricane Michael

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PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — At the Bay County Fairgrounds, FEMA trailers line the street as they have for more than a year after Hurricane Michael and residents like Amanda Rhodes are looking for a way out.

“This is crazy,” she said on Tuesday. “I can’t even come outside by myself at night without wanting to carry a gun or a knife.”

Rhodes has been living in a FEMA trailer after her home was destroyed in the hurricane. She is one of more than two hundred households still living in FEMA trailers in Bay County.

Connie Jordan lives in the same FEMA trailer park as Rhodes.

“I’m a St. Andrews Towers resident and I can’t wait to go home,” said Jordan. “Just waiting on them to get the renovations done.”

The deadline to find alternate housing was extended through October 11th, and FEMA will start collecting rent for their trailers in September. The agency was scheduled to start collecting rent earlier this year, but they put it off as residents struggled financially with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rhodes said she thinks charging rent is a good idea, since she believes it may drive away non-law-abiding people residing in FEMA trailers. 

“They’re just a bunch of thieves and drug heads,” said Rhodes. “They need to pay dang rent just like anyone; nothing is free in this world so they need to either pay the rent or leave.”

Jordan said although she feels the rent prices are too high for the trailers, she’s happy to pay it. Both Jordan and Rhodes said they’re noticing more and more people moving out.

“I don’t know if it’s due to the rent or they’re not abiding by the rules,” said Jordan. “A lot of people don’t abide by the rules.”

According to FEMA, at the start of the program nearly one thousand households qualified for temporary housing due to Hurricane Michael. Since then, hundreds of families have found permanent or alternate housing plans and 268 households remain in temporary FEMA housing.

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