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FEMA trailer frustrations linger four months after Harvey

HOUSTON – Thousands of families in need of temporary housing following Hurricane Harvey continue to face red tape and delays.

According to the latest information from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, 6,970 families have qualified for some type of temporary housing, yet 5,851 of those families are still waiting for that help.

"I've never seen inside it," Dorothy Anderson, a Dickinson resident said.

Anderson can only look at the brand new FEMA-provided mobile home that was placed on her front lawn several weeks ago.  

“Can you get any explanation as to when you'll be able to move in?” asked KPRC investigator Robert Arnold.

“No, they don't tell you anything, they don't know,” said Anderson.

Since Harvey flooded her home, Anderson has slowly worked to rebuild. She had to live in her flood-ravaged home for months while waiting on a temporary one. 

"It was terrible because nothing was working," said Anderson.

When FEMA finally delivered a large mobile home, complete with a generator, Anderson was relieved. However, delays in getting water and electricity hooked up and steps built to reach the front door, kept Anderson from moving in. FEMA doesn't allow someone to move in to a temporary home until it is fully operational.

"Last week they came and they apologized and they were going to get this all together, but here we stand," said Anderson.

The state's General Land Office is now in charge of getting Harvey-affected Texans temporary homes. However, Land Commissioner George P. Bush said it has to wait for FEMA to provide names of those in need before they can deliver a temporary home.

"Right now we have work crews ready to deploy in the field that are waiting for names," said Bush. “We do not have a name of those 5,800."

Bush said FEMA didn’t ask the state to help manage temporary housing programs until three weeks after Harvey made landfall and it took another three weeks to work out the legalities of the project. Bush said this lag time prevented the state from prepositioning mobile homes and trailers or getting advanced contracts in place to purchase these structures. Even after this was hashed out, Bush said FEMA didn’t start providing a list of names of those who need temporary housing until December.

Bush said other hurdles include navigating local regulations governing sewer, water, electric and other services being set up in these temporary homes. He also said in some cases, these temporary homes can’t be set up at a person’s house so commercial sites have to be located.

According to FEMA information just for Galveston County, 306 families have been approved for temporary mobile homes, yet only three are ready for occupancy. Another 16 have been given the green light to move in, but have yet to do so. Some 109 families qualified for travel trailers to be set up at their flood-damaged homes and 58 have been licensed to move in. 

Then there's cases like Anderson’s. She said she doesn't even need the mobile home anymore, because her house is now livable.

"I says, 'well, thanks a lot for killing all my grass," said Anderson.

FEMA officials said it was a lengthy process to work out all legalities of having a state agency handle federal disaster relief programs. They said they are working to get all the information sent over to the Land Office. 

As for Anderson's mobile home, FEMA officials told us it can't discuss individual cases because of privacy issues.