FEMA tells WINK News that the agency made mistakes in managing expectations regarding temporary housing units for Hurricane Ian survivors, which FEMA’s deputy federal coordinator admits accidentally gave survivors false hope.
In early December, we showed you orange paint marks that FEMA had drawn on people’s driveways in the Island Park neighborhood, demarcating where a temporary housing unit could go.
FEMA says the confusion is 100% its fault, that a mistake was made. One woman in Island Park, Patti Hansen, saw a FEMA agent paint lines around a month ago, only to find out that a trailer cannot go there because she lives in what’s called a floodway.
Lee County’s flood map shows around 34% of the county in a flood zone. But a floodway is a small, separate area within a flood zone, and that’s where FEMA can’t legally put trailers.
The agency is also not allowed to put temporary housing in what’s called a vector, which is an area right by a beach or river. Both spots are at a high risk of flooding.
That does not mean people who live in floodways or vectors can’t get help from FEMA; they can still get help with rent money, and they can still get housing elsewhere.
But they can’t get what they felt they had been promised.
“People are thinking, ‘Great, I’ve got approved for direct housing’; they still are,” said Bob Fogel, FEMA’s deputy federal coordinator. “If a trailer isn’t feasible, we still can put them [directly] into [an] apartment once we get those available, so they’re not out. But what they heard was, ‘I’m gonna get a trailer, they measured for a trailer, now I can’t have a trailer.’ And that at the end of it, it takes on average anywhere from three to four weeks for that process, between the utilities, all the coordination with the local municipality… that is a devastating blow at that point. And it’s, it’s wrong, and we should not do that. And, so, that’s one of the things we’re now improving.”
To see the full map of Lee County’s floodways and vectors, visit the Lee County Florida Geographic Information Systems website.