Louisiana Turns to Thousands of RV Trailers to House Victims of Hurricane Ida Months Later

Some Louisiana residents are just now being moved into mobile home trailers supplied by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), over four months after Hurricane Ida devastated the state and damaged thousands of homes.

The Aug. 29, 2021 storm displaced thousands, and as of Monday around 7,500 people from over 2,600 households are living in the 3,101 RV trailers that FEMA and the state have sent to the southern parishes of the state.

The trailers are part of a test program in the state that has FEMA pay for the temporary trailers, and the state is responsible for the distribution of the trailers to help get families out of temporary tent camps.

The program was suggested by FEMA because they said restrictions on state-run shelters are looser than the restrictions for the homes provided by FEMA, Mike Steele, spokesman for the Governor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Protection, said Monday according to The Associated Press.

He also said the program started in some of the coastal areas of the state and is just now reaching some of the areas further inland, with the first trailers sent in mid-October shortly after the plan was approved by FEMA.

Hurricane Ida Louisiana Temporary Housing
A view of flood-damaged buildings in the communities in Laffite, Grand Isle, Port Fourchon and Lafourche Parish, Louisiana, Sept. 3, 2021. Four months after Hurricane Ida, some in Louisiana are just being moved out of tent camps and into RV trailers provided by the state and FEMA. Jonathan Ernst/AFP via Getty Images

Shantell Campbell of Houma and her three school-aged children moved last week from a camp to one of dozens of RV trailers at a field in Schriever, about 11 miles (18 kilometers) away.

"I'm grateful," Campbell told The Courier. "There's still people trying just to get here."

Tent camps in Dulac and Montegut have closed, and occupants have moved from camps under single huge tents to one in Chauvin, featuring multiple small tents, said Terrebonne planning and zoning director Chris Pulaski.

"It's better in the event anybody tests positive for COVID," Pulaski said.

The state test program is starting to reduce the backlog, the newspaper reported.

In addition, Steele noted, the RV trailers are easier to haul onto property.

Hurricane Ida left many of the residents' homes unlivable. The storm roared ashore Aug. 29, 2021, at Port Fourchon, 47 miles (75 kilometers) southeast of Houma, as a strong Category 4 hurricane with 150-mph (240-kph) winds.

Kentucky officials have talked to their counterparts in Louisiana about emulating the program to house people whose homes were hit by December's deadly tornadoes, and Louisiana is considering the purchase of more trailers, Steele added.

"We're talking to FEMA about having this as a regular option" after disasters, he said.

Pulaski said FEMA had approved nearly 1,500 households for housing but had only 70 mobile homes occupied.

The move to trailers frees up needed space in the tent camps, Terrebonne Parish Councilman Carl Harding said.

Alexis Amacker lived for a while in a tent camp near his home in Houma. He has now moved into an RV trailer.

"It took a while, but it's a blessing," Amacker said.

Parish officials have repeatedly criticized the slow response by FEMA at getting mobile homes set up across the two parishes.

Harding said residents living in the RV trailers told him last week that their needs include getting a school bus stop and Wi-Fi access.

Those housed in the campers are chosen at random from residents who have applied for temporary housing after the storm. In addition to tent camps, some lived in hotel rooms paid for by FEMA.

Two tent camps in Terrebonne Parish are still full, according to Pulaski, who said he's also worried that COVID-19 is delaying progress. He said he tested positive over the holidays. He's feeling better, and has been staggering shifts and letting staffers work from home to cause as little disruption as possible.

"We can't afford to have the permit office go down because of a COVID outbreak," he said. "There's too much at stake."

In Chauvin, Carolyn Marcel and Kenneth Scott Jr. have had a FEMA mobile home on their property since Dec. 12, but couldn't move in because inspection and licensing weren't complete. Marcel and Scott said they haven't been given a timeline. For now, they are staying in a small camper that they've parked in their son's driveway.

Both have heart problems and joked that once they move into the FEMA trailer with all of their equipment, it'll look like a hospital unit. Both have been responsible for taking care of family members and say they need their own space after being stretched thinly.

"We need rest," Marcel said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.