BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – More than 9,000 mobile homes and campers meant for the victims of Hurricane Katrina are sitting unused at government staging areas while displaced families continue to live out of tents and shelters.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (search) says the backlog was inevitable: The temporary housing is easier to acquire than distribute because of the limited number of accessible roads, cleared lots and trucks to haul housing to the storm-ravaged region.
But its been six weeks, and the people left homeless by the hurricane say they are tired of waiting for the federal government (search) to fulfill its promise.
"We applied for a FEMA trailer, but we have no result yet," said Ben Truong, 34. He has been living with his parents, aunt and a couple of dogs on their shrimp boat near Biloxi, Miss., running the boat's engine to power a generator.
"What's killing us is we're burning the diesel that makes our living," he said. "If something doesn't happen ... we are going to lose everything."
More than 22,000 storm victims are still living in shelters, Coast Guard Vice Adm. Thad Allen said Wednesday. Long-term temporary housing is expected to be needed for at least 400,000.
To help, the government ordered 125,000 campers (search) and mobile homes (search). About 6,700 campers are now occupied, but more than 2,500 mobile homes and 6,400 campers sit unused at staging sites in Selma, Ala.; Purvis, Miss.; Baton Rouge, La.; and Texarkana, Texas, said FEMA spokesman James McIntyre.
The mobile homes require more space than the campers, plus permits from local officials, and that takes time, McIntyre said. Campers are easier to distribute, but long waits are impossible to overcome.
In some case, campers were sent to the region but no one came for them. In Alabama (search), 200 unoccupied travel trailers were sent back to staging areas by state parks because not enough people stopped in to claim them.
Officials at FEMA don't know how many people have signed up for the homes, McIntyre said. Hurricane victims can call a toll-free number, use the Web or go to a relief center to register.
The housing is distributed pretty much on a first come, first served basis, McIntyre said. However, an inspector must determine if the proposed property is cleared enough for a trailer, and electricity must run to the site.
Raymond and Andra White of Gulfport, Miss., requested a trailer about a week after the storm and they're still living out of a tent on their property. The agency has yet to send an inspector to determine if their property is suitable.
"We are just toughing it out," said White, a 45-year-old former boxer who sells cars at a Nissan (search) dealership. "All we can do is wait."