State focus shifting to housing

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 7, 2005

The Selma TImes-Journal

Focus on the state and national level has switched from temporary shelters to more long-term housing options for Hurricane Katrina evacuees, according to a press release from Governor Bob Riley’s office.

Emergency Management Agency officials around the state are identifying options for the Governor’s Golden Rule program. EMA officials are turning in available options that state and Federal Emergency Management Agency personnel will examine to determine if they are useable housing.

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According to the press release, officials are looking for single-family homes, multi-family apartments, housing complexes, nursing homes, dormitories, houseboats, motor homes, garage apartments, mobile homes, travel-trailer hook-ups, or any type of housing or shelter where people can live as families for an extended period of time.

It is with that request that Dallas County EMA director Brett Howard says the discussion for housing evacuees in Jim Minor, Craig Field and MBA Homes near Selma started.

“What they have asked us to do is identify potential sites,” he said. “Craig Field, Jim Minor Garden Homes and MBA (Minnie B. Anderson) all have vacancies.”

Howard said that state and federal officials would examine the proposed sites from around the state and decide which, if any, can be used.

Currently, Howard said, the state has three major sites that are first priority. They are: state parks like Lake Martin where trailers can be set up, the barracks at Fort McClellan and a Greene County site that could house up to 11,000 evacuees in trailers.

Howard said there are currently 25,000-35,000 evacuees in the state and that state officials are moving away from temporary shelters towards more permanent housing options.

Locally, Howard said many people, including the Selma Housing Authority, have stepped up and placed evacuee families.

“People are donating houses,” he said. “We have places with hook-ups (for trailers) people are making them available… There is no housing issue right now.”

Howard praised the Housing Authority for their work in housing the evacuees.

“The Housing Authority is doing a wonderful job,” he said.

In Tuesday’s meeting between county and city officials, City Councilman Johnnie Leashore was critical of any plan that would put evacuees into the Selma Housing Development Corporation’s MBA Homes.

Howard stressed that he had no control over what the state and FEMA would decide; he simply provided them with options.

“It’s strictly up to the federal government to find a cost effective way of putting families into housing,” he said.

Howard also discussed the possibility of local churches and other organizations bringing more evacuees to Selma.

Howard said that local agencies, including the EMA, are running out of resources to help evacuees. He said that the local system can aid the evacuees currently in town, but more would be too much of a strain for a small town and county.

“If a church decided to take buses and bring people here, that church needs to be responsible for their feeding, clothing and their needs,” he said. “There is no more bottled water, ice or MRE’s (Meals Ready to Eat) to be had.”

For a community our size, Howard said, Selma and Dallas County has done a great job.

But bigger communities like Tuscaloosa, Birmingham and Montgomery are better equipped for the job.

“We can’t support a new influx of people, Birmingham can,” he said. “There are places more capable of handling this.

“If the goal is to help people, then we have to get them to places that can help them. Big cities have the resources to do it.

We don’t, we’re small. For a small community, we’ve done a lot.”

Howard encouraged those interested in donating locally to take food to the food bank.

Any supplies donated to the

EMA that they don’t use will be given to Lowell Butts at Crossroads Exxon to be taken to Mississippi.

Also at 9 a.m., on Tuesday, Manpower will be at Selma Careerlink on Water Avenue to help evacuees find jobs.