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FEMA Providing Temporary Housing to Thousands

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is

undertaking an ambitious effort to provide transitional

housing to hundreds of thousands of displaced Hurricane

Katrina victims. It's relying heavily on manufactured

homes and mobile trailers, but has also rented three

vessels from Miami-based Carnival Cruise Lines for six

months to house primarily elderly and health-risk

victims. Two Carnival ships, docked in Galveston, Tx.,

can hold a combined 5,200 refugees. The other

1,800-person capacity ship is stationed in Mobile Bay,


The government has ordered about 100,000 two-bedroom

mobile homes and recreational vehicles from manufacturers

nationwide to help fill housing needs for 300,000 people,

says James McIntyre, a FEMA spokesman in Baton Rouge, La.

They are hoping to purchase 200,000 more, opening 30,000

homes every two weeks until they reach 300,000. The

government has taken delivery of about 12,000 units so

far, receiving about 500 residences a day, McIntyre says.

Roughly 44.7% of the $51.8-billion in federal Hurricane

relief aid is being earmarked for temporary housing.

Clayton Homes Inc., a Maryville, Tenn.-based unit of

Berkshire Hathaway Inc., received an order for 1,800

units to be delivered to Texarkana, Tex., one of four

FEMA emergency housing staging areas. The other centers

include Selma, Ala., Purvis, Miss., and Baton Rouge, La.

Two hundred single-section homes, ranging from 900-sq-ft.

to 1,100-sq-ft. in size, have already been delivered,

says Chris Nicely, a Clayton spokesman. Although he

declined to comment on the contract amount, Clayton's

two-and-three bedroom homes retail for around $25,000 to

$35,000 each.

The firm is attempting to deliver 100 homes a day over

the next two to three weeks. And it's in discussions to

provide another 600 pre-entitlement homes through the

U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development. On Sept. 9,

FEMA announced a newly formed Housing Area Command with

the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD),

the Army Corps of Engineers and the American Red Cross to

coordinate housing operations across the Hurricane

Katrina-impacted areas. Hurricane victims could be housed

in mobile home and trailers communities of 5,000 to

25,000 people for three to five years as cities and towns

are rebuilt, said Brad Gair, FEMA's Housing Area

Commander, during a Sept. 12 press briefing.

Meanwhile, the furious pace of deployment has prompted

firms like Star Fleet Inc., a Middlebury, Ind.-based

transporter of recreational vehicles, to hire up to 100

more drivers in order to deliver 50 units a week to

Selma, Ala. U.S.R.V. Transport, Wakarusa, Ind., is

seeking another 500 drivers to ship up to 50 units a day

to Gulf-stricken areas.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest

Service has temporarily rescinded campground fees, which

range from $4 to $25-a-day, as well as 14-day stay limits

at its Southern Region lands, which total 106 campgrounds

in Louisiana, Alabama, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas. It's

also making 30,000 housing units from its Rural

Development program available to Hurricane victims.

FEMA is clearing-out dealer inventories nationwide at a

record pace with Al's Motor Home & Trailer Sales,

Rockford , Ill., reporting 200 trailer sales to FEMA,

Burnside RV Gaylord, Mich., is delivering 350 trailers,

and Meyer's RV Superstore, Hamburg, N.Y., is sending a

combined 300 travel trailers and motorhomes from its four

upstate N.Y. locations.

"FEMA is in the process of securing 40,000 to 70,000

travel trailers from 30-ft. to 35-ft-long with A/C and

furniture in a cost range of $20,000 or less from dealers

across the country," says Clark McEwen, executive

director of the Austin-based Texas Recreational Vehicle

Association. "Most of the dealers in Texas and across the

country are just about cleaned-out of that particular

trailer. But there are number of manufacturers now

ramping up production."

Dutchmen Manufacturing, in Goshen, Ind., for instance,

plans to accelerate the opening of a new production

facility in Goshen. The company's wholesale inventory has

been depleted and dealers in the Southeast are reordering

barebones FEMA-type units to be distributed to the

homeless, says Richard Florea, Dutchmen president.

Dutchmen intends to ramp-up production by 20% by the end

of September while hiring between 200 and 250 new

employees by the first of the year.

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