State Representative Tanner Magee has been boots on the ground since Ida made landfall across South East Louisiana. Magee said judging from an aerial tour just days after the storm, it was evident that residents needed help fast. He also made trips and personally spoke with residents who have lost everything and said it was heartbreaking to see so many people in the situation they are in. Magee said there are around 10,000 homes in Terrebonne that were destroyed. Families need help, and they need it fast.
Magee describes the housing crisis as heartbreaking, “you go down there, and you see people, and it’s heartbreaking. You want somebody to do something and you want to try and push and do everything you can to get some sort of relief for them because nobody should have to live like that.”
The process of getting help started with local legislation knowing that residents need temporary housing. Magee said Terrebonne Parish put in a request early on for temporary housing and led to a conference call with Congressman Steve Scalise’s office, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), state partners, where Magee said FEMA gave a timeline of 30 days. This call was about three weeks ago.
“We knew on that conference call that it was an unacceptable timeline,” Magee said. “Little did we know they didn’t really have any intention of filling that timeline.” FEMA kept pushing the timeline further, bringing units to the area in November. Magee said they were relentless by calling FEMA, calling the Governor’s office, and calling the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness to get voices heard. They wrote letters and worked constantly to get momentum going, but the representative said it was a revolving door of miscommunication between FEMA and GOSHEP. This is when Rep. Magee personally wrote a letter (which can be read here) to convey to the organizations that the issues need to be fixed and people need housing assistance.
Voices were heard and FEMA took an existing program to allow the state to create a program to allow a mobile housing program. The Hurricane Ida Sheltering Program is the first of its kind and provides temporary housing for residents who were left homeless. The program runs concurrent with FEMA’s housing program, but it allows the state to be able to be more flexible in regulations and helps the process move a little faster. The state will meet the needs of families, and FEMA will reimburse the state through existing programs. “We’re doing this for the first time. I have an urgency to push the state forward and I also have a realization that there are probably going to be some hiccups along the way,” Magee said.
The program offers non-congregate sheltering, which is different from traditional sheltering options to provide a living space that offers some level of privacy. Sheltering options may include hotels, base camps, crew barges, or recreational vehicles (RVs), including travel trailers that typically hitch to an existing vehicle. While this program is funded through FEMA, it is run entirely by the state.
Gov. John Bel Edwards released a statement, “There is no doubt that there are people currently living in unsafe or unsanitary housing because of Hurricane Ida, which is not acceptable. Housing is the biggest challenge facing those affected by this devastating storm, and our state-run sheltering program is a safe, creative, temporary solution to get more people closer to their homes as they rebuild,” Gov. Edwards said. “I’m grateful to FEMA’s flexibility in working with us to purchase travel trailers as an interim solution to help survivors while other efforts, including work by FEMA, are ongoing.” Last week, Congress and the White House approved billions in federal Community Development Block Grant funding for Louisiana and other states to address damage caused by recent storms. In Louisiana, Gov. Edwards said they intend to direct much of the share of the funding to housing recovery for people affected by Hurricanes Laura, Delta, Zeta, and Ida.
Residents needing help can visit IdaShelteringla.com or call (844) 268-0301 or TTY services call (844) 458-1806. Rep. Magee said residents can call his office at (985) 858-2920 or email email@example.com and they will gladly advise where to go and do everything they can to get people in touch with the right people. “That’s one big thing our office does,” he said, “is to help constituents navigate the process and we get frustrated just like you during the process. I don’t work for the state, I don’t work for the federal government, so I get frustrated just like everyone else. I’m just someone with resources who wants to help.”
Magee wants residents to know that everybody is doing everything they can to push FEMA and the state to get as many resources down here. “It’s a testament to our efforts that we have cracked FEMA’s wall open and pushed them to create a program to push FEMA’s resources faster to Louisiana,” he said, “I know it’s not fast enough, but it’s unprecedented and I think it shows how hard people are working to make things happen…I just want to let people know that we care.”