The federal government has begun moving trailers out of large FEMA-owned parks.
Contractors began hauling trailers away Tuesday from several federal sites in South Mississippi.
FEMA is either relocating the trailers or helping the residents find other lodging, an effort to do away with the large FEMA parks that are drawing complaints from some local government leaders and nearby residents.
Some trailer dwellers said they were given only vague warnings about when their trailers would be pulled. Larry Cravens, a 54-year-old military veteran, said he came home and his trailer was gone, moved to a new location.
“They said they’d give me a day’s notice, but I don’t have a phone,” said Cravens, who has lived in the Milner park since June 2006.
Katrina destroyed his Biloxi home on 30th Avenue and FEMA took his trailer while he was away, but surprisingly, he sticks up for the federal agency.
Cravens said he hates the way people knock FEMA, after all the good things it has done for him.
FEMA said at least 15 group trailer sites have closed and seven others in the three Coast counties will be closed by the end of January.
There are 365 trailers currently in the seven parks.
In a recent news release FEMA said, “Although available housing is limited” on the Coast “the park closings mark steady progress in the recovery effort and resilience on behalf of Mississippians determined to move forward.”
The closures are for sites where FEMA owns and prepared the land after Katrina. Other parks, which are privately owned and were trailer parks before Katrina, are remaining open.
In Gulfport there are a few trailers left at the Broad Avenue park. FEMA is actively pulling trailers away from the Milner Stadium and John Hill Boulevard parks.
The parks in Gulfport are the first of the final seven to be shut down. There are 84 trailers in those parks.
A few days after Christmas, FEMA is expected to start hauling off the 123 trailers that occupy a park in Bay St. Louis and 44 more in D’Iberville.
FEMA said it plans to assign caseworkers to assist tenants in searching for places to live.
Marcia Hill, a FEMA spokeswoman, said the agency is removing trailers from the park on John Hill Boulevard because the Gulfport City Council requested FEMA shut it down by Nov. 30.
In August the council approved Katrina cottages — part of a state-run, federally funded program — as a housing alternative in certain areas. Other Coast cities have made similar moves.
Cravens said he qualified for a cottage, but has had little luck finding affordable land outside the government’s new flood zones to put it on.
As of Tuesday, 14,300 FEMA trailers were still occupied in South Mississippi. FEMA said about 80 percent of those are on private land and could remain until the federal housing deadline expires in May 2009.
Those in FEMA-operated trailer parks will be gone by the end of January.