Flood victims getting housing

One by one, temporary housing units are being taken to dozens of families whose homes were splintere

One by one, temporary housing units are being taken to dozens of families whose homes were splintered by the wrath of nature in August and September.

Initially stalled by the need for electricity, wastewater hookups and suitable sites out of flood zones, the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s disaster housing installation is now in full gear, spokesman Peter Lembessis said Thursday.

FEMA began trucking manufactured homes to a staging area in Cobleskill four weeks after Tropical Storm Irene, and then Tropical Storm Lee, laid waste to entire neighborhoods.

“We are anxious, anxious to get those housing units out of that area,” Lembessis said.

People whose homes sustained at least $19,000 in damage — and who plan to rebuild — are being considered for a FEMA home they can keep for up to 18 months.

There are one- and two-bedroom units, some are handicapped-accessible and all have heating systems. Furniture and a care package with plates and dinnerware are included in the units. Recipients don’t pay rent but are responsible for utility costs.

By Thursday, 235 victims were approved for a Temporary Housing Unit, or THU, statewide.

The majority, 156, are for people affected by Tropical Storm Lee.

Of those, more than 54 work orders have been issued, meaning the homes are either in transit or in the process of being set up.

Also, 79 victims of Hurricane Irene have been approved for a THU, with 27 work orders issued as of Wednesday, Lembessis said. “I am excited that every day now we are moving more and more units out of the staging area.”

There are 36 flood survivors now eligible for a THU in Schoharie County.

Finding a suitable place for a THU outside of a flood zone has been a challenge in the Schoharie Valley, but spaces were found in mobile home communities, Schoharie County Emergency Management Director Judith Warner said.

“I know there are some people that are upset that they’re not putting them in [flood zones] but really, they can’t,” Warner said.

Doing so would endanger people and emergency personnel in the event there’s another flood, she said.

Victims are believed to still be staying with relatives, but FEMA also provides housing assistance money and Warner said many hotel and motel rooms are opening up — they had been housing emergency responders and utility workers from throughout the state for several weeks.

Also, some people displaced by the storms are staying in pop-up campers and recreational vehicles.

Statewide, Hurricane Irene’s Aug. 28 destruction led to more than $92 million in FEMA assistance to roughly 43,600 individuals who registered for help.

The remnants of Tropical Storm Lee that followed 10 days later brought 15,700 registrations for FEMA help amounting to more than $50 million so far, said Lembessis, who is no stranger to disasters. In seven years as a FEMA reservist, he’s worked more than 25 disasters and in his native land of Greece, his home burned down.

Lembessis said he is urging people who haven’t registered with FEMA to do so as soon as possible, even if they don’t believe they are eligible.

Even people who were renting an apartment in a house that got destroyed are eligible for help, he said, and registration is the first step to get assistance.

The registration deadline for those affected by either disaster is Dec. 15.

The FEMA Helpline is 800-621-3362. People with hearing disabilities can use the TTY number, 800-462-7585.

Online registration can be done online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov or with a mobile device or smartphone at m.fema.gov.

Categories: Schenectady County

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