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Families in southwest Florida still waiting for FEMA trailers

FEMA trailers
Posted at 5:14 PM, Nov 28, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-29 11:30:43-05

FORT MYERS BEACH, Fla. — Hurricane Ian hit southwest Florida two months ago to this day, and several community members are asking where the FEMA trailers are.

A FEMA media relations specialist says families are in trailers right now, though they couldn't say how many. However, one man says he hasn't received any assistance.

"It's been over a month," said Fort Myers Beach shrimper Ricky Moran. "We ain't asking for much."

He and his two other shrimper friends have been waiting, even offered to share one.

"There's people living in tents all around," Moran said. "We're trying to get our lives back together."

Moran says FEMA told him he didn't qualify at first before hearing back from them shortly after the initial denial.

"I got these calls that you qualify for a unit and I said me, him and him could stay in a unit together," Moran explained. "They want us to put the unit someplace. You got to have someplace to put the unit."

He lived in a shrimping boat. The owner of the lot said he can put the trailer on his property. They have a generator and access to running water. However, this past Friday, Moran says he got a text message stating he didn't qualify anymore.

"It’s frustrating because we don’t know what’s going to happen the next day to the next," he said.

Renee Bafalis, a FEMA media relations specialist says there are trailers on the way, but admits the process takes some time depending on what a family needs.

"What the situation is on their property whether their home is completely damaged, whether it has to be excavated off the property," she said. "Whether there’s enough room for it to be placed on the property while they continue to do work on the home."

They also send an inspector out to the property to look and document it. That's where they determine whether the person is eligible. FEMA also says a trailer can't go in a floodplain area. The amount of time it takes to hear from your insurance company can also be a factor.

"I think there is a big need for housing assistance period in this county," Balfalis said. "There are FEMA trailers coming into the six counties that are made eligible for direct housing assistance."

Moran doesn't have an insurance claim though, making the process even more confusing for him.

"It really just doesn’t make much sense to me," he said. "I got to go back in the morning to see if they’re going to let me have a unit."

While he waits to see what FEMA is going to give him, Moran says he's not going to let any decision stop him from bringing our community back together.

"I’ll stay here and help with the clean-up work," he said. "We're trying to get our lives back together."

When we asked Bafalis about setting up trailers at a local park, similar to a small community, she said they are working closely with the state and county to scope out locations.

Fox 4 reached out to Lee County about this possibility. A spokesperson said they have nothing to share or confirm.

You can click here if you need to apply for FEMA.