Life In A F.E.M.A. Trailer - - Jackson, MS

Gulfport 08/29/06

Life In A F.E.M.A. Trailer

By David Kenney

For many victims of Hurricane Katrina, finding a new place to live after the storm has been a difficult task. In the meantime, many have relied on the governments help for putting a roof over their heads, with what has become a household name, a F.E.M.A. trailer. 

Debra Hilgelman rode out hurricane Katrina in the attic of her Gulport home built in 1901. The structure survived but took a beating. Four feet of gulf water was in her living room a the height of the storm.

Now uninhabitable, she's moved next door, into her F.E.M.A. trailer.

With beads of sweat dripping from her brow after working in the Mississippi summer heat, Hilgelman says, "This is not a house and I was never a big fan of camping, but this has been pretty close to camping."

Hilgelman's home was nearly 3 thousand square feet her F.E.M.A. trailer, less than 300.

A small bed, even smaller kitchen, a sitting area, shower, and very little cabinet space is now what Debra and her mother call home.

Hilgelman says, "Chaos, I know how homeless people feel you don't know where anything is, most of what you had is gone, it's been incredibly stressful."

Right after Katrina, there was an immediate need for trailers, Hilgelman waited over five months for hers.  Getting utilities hooked up, was an even longer wait.

Hilgelman says, "It was a month before the city could get water lines all our water lines were buried under mountains of debris.  They just ran the gas line last week."

While her trailer is lacking space, her neighborhood is not. Every home between hers and the beach, completely demolished, by the storm surge, taking with it any sense of security, mother nature hadn't already snatched up.

Able to cool off in the air-conditioned trailer, Hilgelman holds her dog "Buddy", "They tried to break into my trailer over a month ago, you can see the doors all beat up.  When I sleep here I have a loaded gun that's right to me if I hear somebody outside I grab my gun before I go to the door."

Hilgelman spends most of her time working to restore her home, to get out of the confinements of the trailer as soon as possible. It also helps her take her mind off the monumental task ahead, and the insurance company that only paid off a fraction of her policy.

Through it all, without her F.E.M.A. trailer, she wouldn't have any place to call home.

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