Panama City Manager Mark McQueen said the city is negotiating with FEMA to try to acquire the surplus trailers. As of last week, there were more than 50 empty trailers at the fairgrounds campsite, according to FEMA reports.
(TNS) — Rather than let FEMA trailers sit empty at the Bay County Fairgrounds group site and the staging area in Marianna, Panama City, Fla., is asking to be given the opportunity to put people in them.
City Manager Mark McQueen said the city is negotiating with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to try to acquire the surplus trailers. As of last week, there were more than 50 empty trailers at the fairgrounds campsite, according to FEMA reports, in addition to the ones that were staged in Marianna and never rolled out for use.
"Those have gone unclaimed because FEMA has been unable to make contact with those survivors," McQueen said at the recent City Commission meeting. "Knowing that there are some already established in our group sites and that there are another 70 up in Marianna that are not yet placed, we are striving to get those donated to the city."
The hope, according to McQueen, is to get 100 trailers that city officials can offer as interim housing to people who have fallen through the cracks.
Leading the city's effort is Community Development Director Michael Johnson, whose department often helps place people in homes. He said he already has started a list of names for the trailers, if the city is successful.
Qualifying will be "first come, first served, first qualify," Johnson said. "We are taking applications. We are taking names now. We have a waiting list, let's just say that."
A FEMA spokesman, asked about the historical precedent and the likelihood of the donation from the agency's perspective, said he needed more time to research before commenting for this story.
As of April 18, FEMA had placed 875 households in travel trailers, mobile homes and direct lease properties in Bay, Calhoun, Gadsden, Gulf and Jackson counties, the agency said.
Local officials estimate that hundreds of families who didn't qualify for direct housing assistance are currently couch surfing in the area.
If the donation is approved, Johnson said the city will "be able to situate those trailers at privately owned property so that people can watch their homes being reconstructed or if we need to take them to a commercial site we will do that as well so that people can be housed fairly quickly."
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