Even though so many of their neighborhoods look like this street in Biloxi, MS, most of the Mississipians we talk to are clear on one point: they will rebuild. But aside from waiting on endless lines to get the right paperwork and endless telephone calls to their insurance companies, one of the major challenges is figuring out where to live in the meantime.
While wandering around Biloxi, MS one day, we came upon a merry group of neighbors having a visit on the front porch of a tidy but gutted house. With help from volunteers, they were able to clear out the debris from their house, throwing nearly everything away save a bed frame and a dresser. They feel lucky that the structure remains intact. And though the porch remains suitible for afternoon chats, they are living in a FEMA trailer parked in their driveway.
Most people are living in FEMA trailers, small mobile homes from 13 feet long to 21 feet long (depending on the size of your family). Buddy, the affable security guard at the Prime Outlets mall where the booth is parked has been living with his roommate in an 18 foot trailer which, he says, "is getting smaller everyday." One woman we talked to was living in an 21 foot trailer with her husband and three teenage boys–all of whom are taller than she is.
We visited Tom and his sweet dog inside his FEMA trailer. Tom’s house was at the bottom of a dead end street. He rode the storm out in his house. When it was over, he found that nearly all of his neighbors possesions had wound up in his front yard. On the small table in his trailer are three or four handguns and twice that many watches along with other odds and ends he was able to salvage. He said that after the storm the end of his street was clogged with all sorts of debris, cars, boats–even some bodies.
Some people haven’t been able to get the FEMA trailers so they have resorted to living in tents. For most people, their property is all they have left–even if there is nothing on it. Many are still paying mortgages on houses that no longer exist.