Emotional challenges of residents in FEMA temporary housing - KOAM TV 7

Emotional challenges of residents in FEMA temporary housing


May 22 marks the one-year-anniversary of the deadly E-5 tornado that struck Joplin and Duquesne, but for some residents its one more month of fear.

Some tornado survivors living in the FEMA mobile homes worry they won't find a place of their own by the November 7 deadline.

Bandi Kolbe is a social worker at the Resource Center at the FEMA project.  The Center is a cooperative between agencies like the YMCA and Ozark Crisis Center.

Kolbe says when the FEMA mobile homes arrived in August there were about 580 families living in the housing projects.  Now, there are about 339 families.

"I'm concerned about the time frame," Kolbe says.  "It's been almost a year.  Recovery takes multiple years and that means multiple years for wholeness recovery, financial recovery, economic recovery.  So I think this is going to be a long and slow road."

Some FEMA residents say the government agency is trying too hard to turn that slow road into a speedway.

Resident Jason Calvin says his job was given away by the time he moved back to the area, after living with family in Saint Louis.  His unemployment checks stopped last week and he says he now lives off $16 a month in food stamps.

Calvin says FEMA is pushing tornado victims too hard.

"You have no time to yourself, you have no time to sit, breath, or heal, because they're constantly on us," Calvin says.

"I'm looking at living in my truck," Calvin says.  "There are times that I feel like I'm going to have to move out of the area.  It's almost like harassment."

Calvin says he's following FEMA rules for staying in his mobile home.  Every month Calvin shows FEMA three to five contacts of whom he's talked to about finding a permanent low income home.

"We had to apply for renters assistance through Economic Security to see if we could get moving," Calvin says.

Social workers say there are challenges of renter's assistance to a low income person.

"We might be able to get assistance there for the first couple of months, but after that, they're kind of on their own so it puts them in an uneasy situation," says Kolbe.

"Some of the housing authorities and stuff, you have to be over 55 and disabled," says Calvin.  "And all of the things for housing, we've been told there's at least a 24 month waiting list."

Kolbe says she's not sure the number of low income housing units built will be enough to fit the need.

"I think everybody is hoping that it will," Kolbe says.

Margo Carlson is Calvin's neighbor, and she too lost her job.  Both have to show proof they've been looking for work.  Carlson says those getting money from the government should be held accountable.

"Its one thing to have lived through it and then when you have nothing to look forward to, that's what's hard," says Carlson.

Calvin says like everything else he owned, his hope is gone.

"Living through the storm was one thing, but living through the hell and aftermath, and being harassed, and unsettled all the time, I would just go with the next storm," says Calvin.  "I don't want to put up with this a second time."

According to FEMA, the state of Missouri can request an extension to the deadline.

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