Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

April 10, 2006

FEMA almost closes volunteer “tent cities” in Louisiana

Filed under: Preparedness and Response — by Christian Beckner on April 10, 2006

On March 31st, a Louisiana television station ran the following piece:

Thousands of volunteers from around the city have been playing crucial roles in the re-building of New Orleans, but the non-profit and religious groups that sponsor them are worried because FEMA plans to close the tent cities that have housed many of the volunteers.

“It’s been astounding, we’ve been able to enlist the support of over, almost 3000 volunteers, if not more than that,” said Mike Hayes with Habitat for Humanity.

Many of the volunteers have been living in “tent cities” set up by FEMA. Two of them housed 1,200 volunteers at a time at a cost of about $100 per person per day. The tent cities had places to sleep, a shower, and a cafeteria.

“We’ve been staying in the FEMA tents, and they have fed us, it’s awesome food, I mean it’s awesome housing, they got hot showers every night for us, so it’s been a great experience so far,” said Auburn University volunteer Lindsey Harder.

FEMA said it has scheduled to close the camps on April 10 and 11.

“Why is this facility being closed down? Well FEMA originally had contracts for about the last six months to operate three camps in the New Orleans areas, and the contracts run out mid-April,” saidFEMA representative Leo Skinner.

The AP reports today that FEMA gave the camps a reprieve:

Camps set up for volunteers who have been traveling to coastal Louisiana parishes to help clear hurricane debris and gut damaged buildings will remain open longer than planned.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency had planned to close the camps, but officials have decided to keep them open at least until June 1.

I’m glad that this last minute decision was made to extend the camps, but I still don’t understand why anyone would have thought to close them in the first place. Hopefully FEMA will soon figure out a sustainable plan for housing volunteers, whose efforts will be needed for years to come.

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1 Comment »

551

Comment by William R. Cumming

April 10, 2006 @ 12:59 am

What the country will start to see now is the need for FEMA to extract from Katrina operations and get ready for the next “Big One.” FEMA, as of last week the Federal Emergency Management Directorate and not Agency or Administration that would have allowed use of the FEMA acronym is too short staffed to indefinitely continue housing operations for volunteers. Its probably not the money it is the staff time to run the contractors who run the operations. FEMA was never designed to run intensive operations for more than 6 months. It is likely in Katrina that the need is for FEMA type operations for 6 years.

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