No room for good cheer in FEMA trailers

Columbus Dispatch

Friday 23 December 2005, 5:27 pm

by Mike Harden

WAVELAND, Miss. -- Throughout the storm-hammered Mississippi Gulf Coast, 25,371 travel trailers provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency are occupied by hurricane survivors who will spend the holidays in confines for which the word cozy is laughably euphemistic.

FEMA trailers are about half the size of a standard mobile home. The oven space in the kitchen range is slightly smaller than a legal pad. The bathtub is the size of an old-fash- ioned washtub — about 2 feet by 3 feet.

Because the hot-water tank holds only 5 gallons, showering requires certain precautions. "You wet your body," one resident said, "then shut off the water to soap up, then turn it back on to rinse off." The next in line must wait 25 minutes for more hot water.

It is not the fear of another Katrina that drives FEMAville residents to distraction, it is the 13-pound Thanksgiving turkey that won't fit in the oven. It is dashing outside in a chilly downpour to fetch the food they're keeping in plastic storage bins because there is no room inside. It is the 40-mile drive to Picayune for groceries, the routine trips to the coin-operated laundry.

Last weekend at a nearby park, at a holiday party for the storm-displaced, church members distributed live Christmas trees. They had the most gracious of intentions but the worst judgment about available square footage.