People should think twice before relying on FEMA’s help for natural disasters

This week, a USA Today article announced that the Federal Emergency Management Agency will begin a pilot program that would make damaged New Orleans apartments available free of cost to those displaced by Hurricane Katrina.

The program’s goal is to provide free temporary housing until small travel trailers can be provided for all that are displaced.

FEMA will begin the program this week with the placement of 325 residents in apartments that weren’t able to be leased because of damage. If effective, FEMA may house as many as 20,000 individuals and families in these apartments, which are to be repaired before they are assigned.

I must applaud the agency for coming up with this new program, but something in me still leaves me with doubt about the long term effects.

It seems like every hair-brained idea that FEMA has proposed as a quick fix in the past has left New Orleans residents S.O.L.

Besides the initial abandonment of thousand of New Orleans citizens after the hurricane, FEMA has developed a habit of throwing money into anything that seems to be a panacea. Then they seem to turn its back on the idea when the kinks begin.

First, FEMA gave everyone checks to cover immediate personal needs, but they didn’t specify what could be bought.

Then, they promised to house victims in hotels until they could think of a more permanent solution. But then they skipped out on many of the bills without notice.

And now, nearly six months after the hurricane hit, they are placing people in trailers at a rate of 500 people per day, a speed that will leave only half of eligible residents housed by March.

So here’s the new scheme. FEMA is going to bring people back into the city to live in hurricane-ravaged apartments. Despite the obvious concerns, I question the safety of these apartments.

I’ve talked to people that have been back to New Orleans to assess their homes and neighborhoods, and it doesn’t sound like a FEMA band-aid repair will be enough to make these units livable again.

Famous New Orleans resident Aaron Neville even told reporters that he can’t even go back yet because of what’s in the air.

Personally, I believe New Orleans should be brought back. But when it comes to FEMA, you have to have a “40 acres and a mule” mentality to sift through their superficial plans. I suggest that all New Orleans residents stay put until they think this one out.

Samantha Long is a sophomore broadcast journalism student from Atlanta. She can be reached at