This situation is like a tug of war, two government agencies bickering over how to help Katrina victims. And in the end, it's the victims who feel the pinch and don't get the help they need.
John McDermott of FEMA gave Today's THV a tour of more than 10,000 mobile homes staged at the Hope, Ark. airport.
McDermott says, “The majority is 60 by 14, I believe, those are the vast majority of them. There's about 1,500 that are 70 and 80 feet long and they might be 14 or 16 feet wide. They're a little bit bigger, then we have a few, couple dozen, 40-feet long.”
Monday the U.S. Inspector General's Office told a Senate panel, "the homes are sinking in the mud and their frames are bending from sitting on trailers with no support."
U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana says, "It's another example of the mismatch in planning that has gone on and it really is again to the point, even on FEMA’s best day, they're not suited to manage this catastrophe."
When asked if the Inspector General's Office was on the mark, McDermott said, "I think you should ask them that. I'm going to show you what we have out here and you draw your own conclusion.”
The holdup is that many of the sites in the states Katrina hit don't have electrical or water hookups ready for the homes. Right now, FEMA is in the process of jacking up nearly 1,500 homes to lay a bed of gravel to stop the sinking in Hope.
Site manager Jerry Hall says, “It won't go underneath all of them. We're going to move a number of mobile homes once this crush runner's done.”
The mobile homes have sat in Hope empty for nearly six months. McDermott says not one of them has left that staging area heading for the people who really need them.
Most of the mobile homes out there are three bedrooms, two baths. They're fully furnished and ready to go when FEMA gives the go ahead, but right now, no one seems to know when that will be.
Acting FEMA Chief David Paulison said Tuesday that someone gave the inspector general bad information and that none of the homes are damaged.