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Thursday, October 20, 2011

Home Owners Frustrated with Flood Response

Seven weeks after Tropical Storm Irene, mobile home owners who had to flee the floodwaters say they're frustrated with state and federal response.

They spoke out at a housing forum Wednesday night in Barre.

Despite their frustration, they were cheered by some good news about the cost of disposing of ruined homes.

VPR's Steve Zind reports.

(Zind) Mary Durland came all the way from Brattleboro to speak on behalf of fellow residents of Glen Park, a mobile home park for senior citizens.

Durland told the crowd that 11 of the park's 33 mobile homes were destroyed. Others were damaged. She said the slow pace of clean-up has taken a toll on the park's elderly residents.

(Durland) "It stinks. The air is unbreathable. The first ten days of October; two massive strokes, a heart attack, a nervous breakdown."

(Zind) Durland told legislators and government officials attending the forum that mobile home owners displaced by the flood feel abandoned.

Advocates say the problem is two-fold.

First, a different set of FEMA guidelines for mobile home owners makes the process of applying for and receiving federal assistance more difficult.

Second, many mobile home residents are low income wage earners or retirees living on fixed incomes. Displaced by the flood, they're having a hard time finding housing they can afford.

John Ashford lost his home at Weston Mobile Home Park in Berlin. He and his son have been living in a motel ever since while they search for a place to live. Ashford says his mobile home cost him $700 each month. He's paying more than triple that figure now.

(Asford) "$2,400 a month. FEMA has settled with me. I cannot buy anything and rent is way, way, way too high. So I don't know what we are going to do."

(Zind) The $26,000 Ashford got from FEMA has dwindled to less than half that amount as he uses it to supplement his social security income to cover expenses.

Mobile home park residents did get some good news at Wednesday's meeting. A new program will remove destroyed homes at no charge to the owner. Initially it was estimated owners would have to pay several thousand dollars for the removal.

A number of charitable organizations and businesses donated for this specific purpose.

Shaun Gilpin directs the statewide advocacy group Mobile Home Project, which will administer the program. He says the money raised should be enough to cover the cost of homes still waiting to be taken away.

(Gilpin) "Right now, on the table confirmed is $145,000 and its likely to be more by the end of the week. My estimate, based on what we've heard and the numbers we've looked at is probably still around 100-130 homes that still need to be dealt with."

(Zind) Gilpin says to take advantage of the no cost removal, mobile home owners have to finish the FEMA process - and many are still working through that.

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