Hurricane Irene leaves families seeking housing

Published 1:02 am Wednesday, October 5, 2011

A FEMA contractor prepares tie-downs for a newly delivered trailer Sept. 27 in Aurora. (Contributed Photo/Marilee Caliendo, FEMA)

It appears more than 100 Beaufort County families have been approved for federal, temporary housing units because their homes were rendered at least temporarily unlivable by Hurricane Irene.

The 100-family figure was current as of Saturday, and it likely had increased by Tuesday afternoon, cautioned Renee Bafalis, a spokeswoman for the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“That number changes daily,” Bafalis said.

Take Belhaven as an example: Guinn Leverett, town manager, is aware of 12 cases of in-town residents who need temporary housing because of the storm.

All residents on the list have applied for or are going through the application process for FEMA aid, he said.

Storm victims who have nowhere else to go are being issued transitional housing — being lodged in, say, hotel rooms — while others are relocating to rental properties, said John Pack, Beaufort County’s emergency-management coordinator.

FEMA is offering rental aid to qualified applicants.

The town has no role in helping people secure rental assistance or temporary housing through FEMA, Leverett pointed out.

Town officials can steer people toward FEMA resources, he said.

“It’s not the normal project that I have to do,” Leverett observed. “Thank goodness for that. We don’t need Irenes in our lives very often.”

As of Tuesday, there were no FEMA mobile units in Belhaven, but units had been sited elsewhere in the county, including the Hickory Point area, Bafalis explained.

Each two-bedroom mobile unit being brought into the county comes equipped with a microwave, dining table and chairs, a first set of sheets and other necessities, according to recent reports from state Sen. Stan White, who represents Beaufort County in the Senate, and Pack.

People will be permitted to live in the mobile units for up to 18 months, White said recently, citing a FEMA briefing.

Numerous reports have shown FEMA isn’t setting up mobile-unit communities in the county, but is focusing placement of the park-model trailers on individual storm victims’ properties.

The temporary housing is being concentrated mainly in the Aurora and Pamlico Beach communities, FEMA officials told the Beaufort County commissioners Monday night.

FEMA is contracting with T and H Enterprises to supply these trailers, and this is the only contractor with whom the agency is working, the commissioners were advised.

Asked for his assessment of the progress on distribution of the mobile units, Pack replied, “If you’re one of the people that doesn’t have a trailer and your neighbor gets one, then you’re not going to think it’s moving fast enough. Otherwise, the system is working.”

One problem Pack is seeing is that some people who need temporary housing aren’t requesting it through FEMA.

He urged people whose homes were damaged beyond livability to contact FEMA.

The number is 800-621-FEMA (3362).

Storm victims also may register online at

The FEMA disaster-recovery center in Chocowinity remains open. The center is located in the Mid-Atlantic Safety Council building off U.S. Highway 17. The center is open from 8 a.m. until 7 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays.

The deadline to register for FEMA help is Oct. 31.

On Aug. 27, Irene devastated parts of Beaufort County, destroying 126 homes and leaving 362 homes damaged to point that, ideally, their occupants would need to vacate them to allow necessary repairs.

As of Tuesday, 3,376 individuals and households in the county had registered for some form of FEMA assistance.

Contributing Writer Betty Mitchell Gray contributed to this story.