22,000 remain in hurricane shelters

The federal government is set to miss a self-imposed Oct. 15 deadline for having all of the Hurricane Katrina evacuees out of temporary shelters.

The number in shelters across the nation peaked at more than 270,000 on Sept. 8, Coast Guard Vice Adm. Thad Allen said. President Bush set a mid-October goal for getting everyone out, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency had been shooting for Oct. 15.

It’s now doubtful that that deadline will be met, in part because Hurricane Rita swept the region just days after Katrina, Allen said.

He stressed that nobody would be forced out of any shelter on Saturday. In the meantime, staff from FEMA, the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Small Business Administration will visit the remaining evacuees to help them find more permanent housing, he said.

“We are on track to get all of the Katrina evacuees out of temporary shelters, into a more permanent housing solution, pending their long-term housing goals,’ Allen said. “We think we’re on the right path, we’re headed that way.’

Long-term temporary housing still must be found for at least 400,000 other Katrina victims now living in hotels or with friends or family. FEMA is working to put them in travel trailers, mobile homes or apartments until they find permanent homes.

“Right now, being in a shelter or being in a hotel is somewhat a bridge to nowhere,’ Allen said.

As of Wednesday, the American Red Cross had 161 shelters for hurricane victims housing 17,837 people, most of them in Louisiana, Texas and Mississippi, according to spokeswoman Stephanie Millian.

“As long as there’s a need for emergency shelters, we’re there to provide them,’ Millian said. . . .

Many residents were being moved to a FEMA trailer park near Baker, La., which opened a week ago. The park holds more than 570 small vacation trailers and is laid out with street lights, gravel roads and sewer service. It is a prototype for what FEMA hopes to do at other sites under construction or being planned.

The red tape involved with acquiring land, getting local permits and sometimes overcoming local residents’ and governments’ concerns have been hurdles, though, as has transporting the temporary homes to people with private property.

The federal government ordered 125,000 campers and mobile homes as housing for hurricane victims. But only about 6,700 are now occupied, while more than 9,000 others sit unused at government staging sites in Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas, said FEMA spokesman James McIntyre.

In some case, campers have been sent back because no one came to claim them. In Alabama, 200 unoccupied travel trailers were returned to the staging areas by state parks because not enough people were interested. . . . — Associated Press

Meanwhile, the National Rifle Association and the Second Amendment Foundation have threatened to sue over FEMA’s ban on firearms possession in the emergency trailer parks.

“Whether it’s a national disaster, whether it’s by nature like Katrina, or a flu pandemic or an earthquake, the Constitution can’t be thrown out the window,’ said NRA leader Wayne LaPierre.

He said the NRA was outraged, and he warned that the organization would take its case all the way to Congress and president.

The East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office had asked that guns be banned at the encampment because the trailers are close together and have thin walls, according to spokesman Deputy Fred Raiford.

“If a gun was discharged in any of those trailers, it probably would go through three or four other trailers before it stopped,’ Raiford said.

But FEMA spokesman James McIntyre said guns would have been prohibited even without the Sheriff’s Office request. — Associated Press

There’s your bureaucracy in action, again. This sort of thing is about what I expected, I suppose. I, along with virtually everyone else, just never quite figured the stupidity would last quite this long.