A site housing dozens of travel trailers has opened on River Road in Hahnville for storm victims displaced by Hurricane Ida.
There are 21 trailers on site currently, but state officials told WDSU that it can hold up to 70, if needed.
As of Wednesday, nine families have moved in, including Tracy Weber and her five children.
“I lost everything in Hurricane Ida,” Weber said. “I’m close to my family, and I’m very excited to be back home.”
Weber was staying in a hotel in Biloxi, Mississippi, as she waited for a trailer to become available.
“(When they called), I cried happy tears,” Weber said.
Casey Tingle, acting director of the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness or GOHSEP, said the St. Charles Parish site is proof the new program works.
“Working with the parish, we were able to help them, and they were able to help us identify a piece of property, do some of the work that was necessary to make it operational, and so it’s a real partnership and an example of how in very difficult circumstances with a lot of other things going on … we’re able to come together and help survivors in St. Charles (Parish),” Tingle said.
The Ida Sheltering program was created in September after Hurricane Ida made landfall. Tingle said it was designed to deliver trailers to storm victims faster than the Federal Emergency Management Agency or FEMA can.
The state purchased 2,083 trailers, which will later be reimbursed by FEMA.
“One of the challenges with this is that we’re doing all of this kind of from scratch,” Tingle said. “Part of this was standing it up for the first time, not having any units before the storm and really not even having a policy arrangement that would allow for that. So once the policy came down, really the end of September, we stepped it into high gear.”
To date, 866 families have been placed in trailers. A total of 1,400 have been staged in communities hit hardest by the storm.
When asked about criticism that the program is not getting families in trailers fast enough, Tingle said he understands the frustration.
“Really over the past week, week and a half, the productivity has gone up significantly,” Tingle said. “(But) getting faster is never fast enough if you’re one of those families that’s waiting on it.”
He said he hopes the state can take lessons learned from Ida to use in the future.
“We certainly are hopeful that this experience and execution will show the potential, show the opportunities,” Tingle said. “It’s something that we would like very much to be able to do in the future and even more so to be able to plan for and have some procurements and contracts and pieces in place so we’re not starting it all up right after the event.”
Sixteen-thousand people have applied for the Ida Sheltering program.
Tingle said GOHSEP will work with those who do not receive a trailer to identify other resources available to them.