Evacuees Decry Conditions in FEMA Parks
The Five Star Resort in Pass Christian, Miss., which has become a temporary home for residents in nearly 140 travel trailers placed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), has become a haven for crime.
According to a report in the Jackson Clarion Ledger, the trailers lining the park’s muddy, rutted streets are jammed next to each other while trash bins overflow with garbage. Resident Dorothy Brown lost her home in Hurricane Katrina and has been living in the park since mid-September.
“I didn’t live like this before,” she said. “I won’t come out after dark.”
Brown and other residents at Five Star said they feel abandoned. There are no lights at night, and security guards that patrolled the park in the initial days after they moved in have left.
The newspaper reported that the complaints of residents at Five Star are echoed at group trailer sites throughout the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
Many residents at Five Star said they see drug sales take place and can describe the cars of supposed drug dealers who make rounds inside the park.
“And (the police) are not doing a damn thing about it,” said Patricia Vial, who lives in Bayou RV Estates adjacent to Five Star. “They are very brazen.”
Additionally, residents complain they were not shown how to operate their malfunctioning trailers, and calls to FEMA’s maintenance lines rarely result in successful repairs.
“I refuse to accept that this is the best we can do,” Brown said. “I’m an American citizen, and I pay my taxes. We deserve better.”
FEMA spokesman Eugene Brezany said the agency is doing its best to get people placed in trailers. But controlling crime and other issues inside the parks are not their issues, he said.
“Local authorities are responsible for law enforcement,” Brezany said. “That’s today and tomorrow and in the future. That is their provence to deal with that.”
But crime inside the park is “not a significant problem in my experience,” he said.
Harrison County Sheriff George Payne said crime – particularly drugs and domestic violence – is an issue in the parks. While he did not have arrest figures for the parks, he is aware of narcotics arrests at Five Star and other group sites.
Payne blames the crowded conditions in the parks for some of the problems.
“It’s a stressful way to live,” he said. “You don’t know who is living next to you.”