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Joplin Tornado: Survivors Ready to Move into FEMA Temporary Mobile Homes, Get First Look Inside

Many families have lived in crowded shelters since May 22

June 15, 2011|Emily Rittman, Ben Knaup | Reporter, Photographer

Joplin, Mo — After an EF-5 tornado destroyed thousands of homes more than 500 people told FEMA officials they need a temporary home. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency announced officials top priority is to place those staying in shelters in temporary housing. They expect the number needing temporary housing to fluctuate as families find other renting opportunities or stay with family and friends.

On Wednesday, crews prepared and inspected ten mobile homes to the Country Acres Mobile Home Community. Four-year-old Tyreka Townsend found her favorite room inside her family's new temporary FEMA mobile home. She ran down the narrow hall and jumped onto what will be her first “real” bed since the tornado struck. “I’m so excited,” Tyreka’s mother Rosie Sanders said as she walked through the three bedroom mobile home. Since May 22, Sanders and her three kids have moved from one shelter to another. “This is so nice,” Sanders said passing through the kitchen area.

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With more than 500 people in Sanders’ shoes, she says she knows a mobile home is much more than that. “This is like an extreme home makeover compared to what we went through going shelter to shelter,” Tyrone Townsend said.

Tornado survivor Susan French is approved and waiting anxiously to move into a FEMA temporary mobile home. She also lived in shelters and partially lived out of her car. "I love it," French said when she walked through the mobile home. “It's hard to be in a shelter with all the noise and all the kids," French said.

The three bedroom mobile homes are furnished. Eligible mobile home applicants won't pay utilities or rent for 18 months. FEMA officials say the mobile homes are not similar to those used after Hurricane Katrina. "Those were travel trailers that we were using and there was controversy with those,” FEMA Housing Expert Pamela Willis said. “These units are built to HUD or U.S. Housing and Urban Development standards the air quality meets HUD standards." They appear to meet tornado survivors' standards too. “Thank God. Thank you," Sanders said to a group of FEMA officials.

While crews are preparing the 10 mobile homes in the Country Acres Mobile Home Community, 50 more are on their way from Selma, Alabama.  FEMA is placing mobile homes in Country Acres and a second existing mobile home park that had empty lots. After those lots are filled, FEMA will place homes on commercial lots or build what they call a group park in an area designated by the city.

FEMA officials will recertify temporary housing applicants every 30 days to assist them and ensure they complete permanent housing goals.

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