Florida Keys

Trailers to house storm victims are in the Keys. But no one’s in them

These are some of the 10 travel trailers that have been in the Keys for a week.
These are some of the 10 travel trailers that have been in the Keys for a week.

A week after the first travel trailers to house displaced hurricane victims arrived in the Keys, they remain in storage in Key West with no apparent immediate plan to get people in them.

The Florida Division of Emergency Management said in a statement Tuesday that “the temporary housing units in Monroe County are staged in Key West for just-in-time delivery to ensure that empty units are not sitting in the public eye. As for a timetable, it is ongoing. As pads become available and survivors are approved by FEMA, we are then able to match them.”

On Sept. 18, Florida Gov. Rick Scott, speaking in Marathon, estimated that about 10,000 of the Keys’ 75,000 or so residents were left homeless by Hurricane Irma, which hit the islands as a Category 4 Sept. 9 into 10.

Monroe County officials have requested from the Federal Emergency Management Agency 1,700 travel trailers and 7,500 mobile homes to accommodate the thousands displaced by storm damage, mostly in the Lower Keys. As of Tuesday, 10 travel trailers were sitting in Key West, with 84 applications to live in them approved.

Many of those left homeless have been staying with friends or in hotels paid for with FEMA vouchers because the Keys’ affordable-housing problems were so exacerbated. But those accommodations won’t last forever.

“It’s not like anyone can get on a list and sign up for a travel trailer,” FEMA spokesman Nate Custer said. “Rental housing is the preferred option, then we put people in hotels.”

For trailers, “We have callers managing applications from the Joint Field Office that are reaching out to registrants as quickly as possible,” state Emergency Management said.

Trailers are “a last resort, it’s the best way to describe it,” Custer said. “It’s not always easy to place these units. You need to have electricity, you need to have utilities.”

When trailers are finally placed, possibly in ruined trailer parks and similar locations, “It’s month to month, it’s finite,” Custer said. “FEMA checks with the applicant every month to make sure they are working on a more permanent solution.”

Larry Kahn: 305-440-3218