FEMA still provides free housing in Joplin, 18 months after tornado

Sun Nov 4, 2012 7:08am EST
 
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By Kevin Murphy

JOPLIN, Missouri (Reuters) - An affordable place to live in the wake of disasters such as superstorm Sandy can become a long-term benefit, as some survivors of the massive 2011 tornado in Joplin, Missouri, can attest.

More than 17 months after the tornado that killed 161 people and destroyed more than 8,000 buildings, the Federal Emergency Management Agency still provides 142 furnished mobile homes free of charge to residents who have no permanent place to live.

As thousands of people displaced by Hurricane Sandy scramble for rental property and hotel rooms in the U.S. Northeast, Joplin shows just how long it can take to recover fully from a major disaster.

In the months after the Joplin tornado, FEMA provided 586 mobile homes, most of them clustered in three remote sites on the city's far north side. Today, 100 homes remain at those sites - several miles from the bustle of a rebuilding Joplin. The other 42 are scattered over several other private properties.

While free, residents said the units are nothing like home. Some residents told of financial and other problems that keep them from finding permanent housing.

The mobile home parks stand out for their sterile appearance. Every unit is bright white. So are the porch railings, the gravel driveways, even the fire hydrants.

"It's a place to live, but it's not really a place to raise a family," said Angie Edwards, as her 6-year-old son, Cameron, kicked a soccer ball against a concrete tornado shelter. "There's no yard and there's not a bunch of other kids around to play with." It is the only home her youngest child, age 1, has ever known.

RENTAL PAYMENTS TO START   Continued...

 
Jason Calvin walks his dogs in Joplin, Missouri October 20, 2012 at the FEMA mobile home park where he lives. An affordable place to live in the wake of disasters such as Hurricane Sandy can become a prolonged need, as some survivors of the massive 2011 tornado in Joplin, Missouri can attest. More than 17 months after the tornado that killed 161 people and destroyed more than 8,000 buildings, FEMA still provides 142 furnished mobile homes free of charge to residents who have no permanent place to live. REUTERS/Kevin Murphy