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FEMA failing to find housing for Sandy victims

November 13, 2012 5:32:41 PM PST
There is little to no temporary housing for thousands of people who can't live in their homes after Sandy.

While FEMA has approved thousands of people for rental assistance, the supply of available apartments does not come close to matching the demand.

And, 15 days into this recovery, the agency that stumbled so badly during Katrina is still without a concrete housing plan.

"Water never this high as with Sandy?" Eyewitness News investigative reporter Jim Hoffer asked.

"No!" Charlotte Goldfarb said.

Four decades of rebuilding after storms, 80-year-old Charlotte Goldfarb says it's time to surrender.

"All the furniture went out in the trash. It was all wet," Goldfarb said.

"So Charlotte, you can't come back here and live?" Hoffer asked.

"No, no way," Goldfarb said.

So Charlotte, like some 15,000 other Staten Islanders has reached out to FEMA for help with housing.

They offered her a hotel room, far from home.

"They had a hotel or something to go to in Albany New York which, forget the whole nine yards. They would drive me up there. To Albany!" Goldfarb said.

"Storm hit 29th, we applied on the second, down here right away," said Kim and Kevin Pluley, Staten Island residents.

Kim and Kevin Pluley also went to FEMA in need of a place to live.

Every day they stop by the FEMA recovery tent where instead of housing, they get more red tape.

"They want us to get a Small Business loan, we don't own a business, we lost an apartment," Kim Pluley said.

FEMA's slow housing response in the aftermath of Sandy was forewarned in this Congressional investigation following Katrina.

It faulted FEMA for lacking ''clear guidance on specific temporary housing options" and warned that without those guidelines, future "disaster victims (would be) at risk of not receiving temporary housing as quickly as possible."

"We concluded that they had not fully implemented our recommendations," said Dan Garcia-Diaz, of the Government Accountability Office.

The head of that 2009 investigation says FEMA has yet to come up with the temporary housing guidelines.

"To the extent that those recommendations have not been implemented and incorporated into their operations, certainly FEMA will experience challenges," Garcia-Diaz said.

Sure enough, 15 days into the recovery, FEMA still seems to have few solutions to finding temporary housing for tens of thousands of storm victims, especially in Staten Island.

"There does seem to be a shortage of supply right now?" Hoffer asked.

"Currently FEMA is making every effort possible to meet those needs for each individual that requires individual transitional shelter assistance," said Jon Knowles, of FEMA.

But with each passing day, desperation grows.

"There are other families like us we are not the only ones, other people wandering the streets because where are we going?" Kim Pluley said.

Eyewitness News made repeated attempts through email and phone calls to FEMA to find out how many people have been placed in temporary housing since the storm 15 days ago, but got no response.

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