HANCOCK COUNTY, MS
Following Hurricane Katrina, at the height of the federal government’s temporary housing program, there were 44,000 coast residents in FEMA trailers. FEMA now says, nearly five years after the storm, that number is down to about 260, including 32 in Hancock County.
One of those residents never dreamed she’d still be calling a FEMA trailer home nearly 60 months after Katrina struck. Pamela Debaun said living in the cramped quarters for nearly five years has been no picnic.
“It’s almost like being in jail, it feels like sometimes. Everything is on top of everything else. There’s no where to put anything because there is very little storage space.”
What she had hoped would be a temporary roof over her head has been home for far too long.
“I thought a year at the most. It’s a good thing we can’t know the future, because I probably would have just fallen over.”
Some coast residents will be able to identify with the reason Debaun is still in a FEMA trailer.
“I’m out of money and I couldn’t finish fixing the house.”
Fortunately she’s getting help with her house from the volunteer organization LESM Mission on the Bay. The group’s director, Elizabeth Wheatley-Jones, said Debaun is not alone.
“Daily, we work with folks still living in FEMA trailers, MEMA cottages, and even storage containers, sheds, anything that is not really habitable at this point.”
Debaun can’t say exactly when her house will be finished enough to occupy, but she said with the help she’s now getting, moving in could possibly happen before Katrina’s 5th anniversary.
“I float on a cloud every time I walk in my house and something else is done and it looks more like home,” Debaun said.
“The reality is it just takes a long time to put this many people back into homes and back on the road to some new normal,” Wheatley-Jones said.
DeBaun said she did apply for a MEMA cottage, but because of an issue with her mortgage company, she could not meet the qualifications for getting one.
Debaun’s tough road to recovery story will be featured in an upcoming edition of USA TODAY.
By Al Showers
WLOX- ch 13