--> Gill Blog: Provide Mobility, Not Just Mobile Homes

Gill Blog

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Provide Mobility, Not Just Mobile Homes

Hindsight is 20/20, so it's easy for the news media, even the most fair and balanced, to see the problems with FEMA's expenditure of $300 Million on more than 10,000 mobile homes being stored in, of all places, Hope, Arkansas.

This past week, Anderson Cooper was "keeping them honest" by airing segments on CNN about the response to Katrina, and now a few hundred of these mobile homes are en route to Baton Rouge. On his 360 Blog this week, Anderson Cooper asked readers,
"What could you do with $300 million? That's how much money the federal government has spent on a ghost town of empty mobile homes sitting in Arkansas."

A prescient article that appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle on September 18, 2005 raised this important question, "Could the government's main plan for housing the victims of Hurricane Katrina—the creation of a vast network of rapidly constructed trailer parks in Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi—actually delay survivors' return to normality?" Bruce Katz and Mark Munro of The Brookings Institution saw the problem with mobile homes well in advance.
The problem with FEMA's trailer camps is that they are a slow-moving, geographically fixed response to the diverse, changeable needs of human beings who are beginning to want above all to reintegrate into mainstream life, wherever they can find it.

Along with a roof over their heads, Katrina's victims will soon crave more than anything family and community, stable employment, and a shot at salvaging the rest of the school year for the kids.

They are in a hurry to rebuild their lives and already fanning out—many of them—over a dozen states and hundreds of cities to do it.

However, don't expect huge convoys of double-wides and RVs to immediately roll down the interstates to Gulf region and immediately line up in new cities to provide shelter. It will take time to manufacture, assemble, and install the new units.

Moreover, by their very nature, the coming encampments—whether in state parks or military bases or adjacent to existing mobile home facilities—will cluster the homeless in dedicated new congregations that could well prolong their isolation from family ties, job networks, and good schools. Such clustering, ironically, could well delay some families' progress into a more settled life by plunging them into make-shift new zones of concentrated destitution.

Read the whole article.


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