Shortage of hotels for those displaced by Hurricane Irma

Posted at 7:13 PM, Sep 20, 2017
and last updated 2017-09-21 07:50:47-04

Social worker Paul Milford of Lee County told Fox 4 that damage from Hurricane Irma has made living conditions next to impossible for some of the families with whom he works. He was hoping temporary housing might be available through FEMA.

"Homes are flooded, they lost roofs," Milford said.

But when he started researching what hotels might be offered through FEMA's emergency lodging program, he didn't find much in Southwest Florida. He said the Baymont Inn and Suites near Daniels Parkway and I-75 was the only hotel listed for Lee County, and he found that they're closed until October for hurricane repairs.

"The more I got into it, the more I started saying 'wait a minute, what's going on here? Where are the resources for these families?'" Milford said.

FEMA spokeswoman Cheria Brown said that it's entirely up to hotels on whether or not they want to be included as one of FEMA's emergency lodging locations.

"We are actively trying to encourage additional hotels to participate," Brown said. "In addition to that, we have rental assistance that you may receive under FEMA, where you don't have to go through the transitional assistance program."

Milford said he was told by a FEMA representative over the phone that the hotel shortage happens after every disaster.

"If this is something that happens after every single disaster, FEMA should have had time to put something in place to plan for that," he said.

Brown said that hotels that would like to participate in FEMA's emergency lodging program should call 1-866-545-9865.