Thousands of Hurricane Victims Still Living in Trailers, Others Still Waiting

While hundreds of thousands of people displaced from the Gulf Coast by Hurricane Katrina have established new lives in faraway places throughout the country, there are thousands more for whom home is a white box.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency says more than 73,000 of its trailers are occupied by hurricane victims in Louisiana, and more than 32,000 in Mississippi. The Louisiana figure includes victims of Hurricane Rita, which struck in September 2005.

The FEMA trailers are provided to eligible storm victims for 18 months.

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While the trailers and mobile homes are designed to help hurricane victims get back on their feet, they may be equally infamous for televised images of enormous stretches of trailers that went unused after the storm, and for other snags.

A year after Katrina, there remain nearly 10,000 trailers stored near the airport in Hope, Ark., waiting to be sent to the Gulf Coast to help storm victims.

In Mississippi, FEMA told hundreds of families in trailers that they would have to move out within 30 days after suspecting they were ineligible for the assistance, then backpedaled in favor of individual interviews with the families.

And in St. Bernard Parish, La., which adjoins New Orleans, 1,200 families are still waiting to get into trailers that need utility hookups or other services, and 400 more families have no trailers at all.

"They don't know what's going to happen day to day," said Donald Balgio, whose elderly parents have been slogging through paperwork in hopes of getting a trailer. "Nobody knows what to do."

FEMA has said it understands the frustrations of those families but points the enormous number of people it has helped since Katrina — more than 1 million households have received housing aid and other assistance.