10,477 mobile homes worth a half billion dollars still set empty in hope. They're intended to give shelter to those who lost everything in Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Instead they're helping no one.
"This is what's wrong with the government and it's time for FEMA to get moving," Representative Mike Ross of Arkansas.
Representative Ross, joined senate minority leader Harry Reid and Senator Mark Pryor in touring the trailers stuck in Hope. FEMA says the homes can't move into hurricane stricken areas because its rules don't allow this type of housing in flood plains.
"What's worse to have them spread out over four states in multiple flood zones or having them set here is a cow pasture in Hope, Arkansas where there will be a tornado warning at least once every two weeks for the next three months," says Ross.
Senator Mark Pryor of Arkansas says, “We really shouldn't have to go through this exercise because with a stroke of a pen, FEMA or the Office of Homeland Security can fix this."
Senators Pryor and Reid sent a letter to President Bush asking him to do just that -- change the regulation. They say the homes symbolize a lack of planning and absence or coordination. And they say moving the trailers could begin to restore public faith in FEMA.
FEMA says it has the regulation for a reason.
Butch Kinerney of FEMA says, “The next storm that comes along, people may not want to leave, they may see this as their permanent home. They may say, ‘No we don't need to evacuate we’re in a nice mobile home, it's strapped down, we don't need to go any further.’ That's a really risky decision. That's why FEMA hasn't recommended it to the President."
The legislators say if president bush doesn't act, they will. The hope housing act which would allow the trailers to move is already in committee.
"This in an embarrassment to our country,” says Senator Reid. “To think that some bureaucratic regulation has stopped people form having homes. You would think this is the bureaucracy of a third world country."
Trailer controversies may not be a short term problem for Hope. FEMA says it may base out of Hope for up to four more years, that way trailers are close to storm areas all across the county.
Representative Ross says FEMA just signed a $4.2 million contract to put gravel down at the airport because some of the mobile homes are sinking. He says that money could be better spent by getting the trailers to hurricane victims.
FEMA says 300 trailers were moved out of hope over the last two weeks.