Jeff Jenny can’t live in the large trailer blocking his house on Woodland Drive in Dickinson.
The manufactured home dominating his front yard arrived two weeks ago to give Jenny temporary disaster housing more than two months after Hurricane Harvey flooded his home. A Federal Emergency Management Agency representative told him he couldn’t live in it, however, until contractors hooked it up for electric service. If he does, he loses the trailer, Jenny said.
The electrical hookup has not happened during the past two weeks in part because the city of Dickinson won’t allow a temporary utility pole on the property.
“Here I am, living in a truck,” Jenny said Tuesday.
The unit in front of his house is among the first FEMA trailers that trickled into Galveston County somewhat under the radar during the past two weeks, and more are coming, officials said.
County Judge Mark Henry did not know they were coming at all, he said Wednesday.
“Not only have we not been included in that decision, we have had no communication,” Henry said. “I’m a little frustrated that local government is not included in these decisions.”
The Texas General Land Office is spearheading immediate disaster housing programs in the state. The land office worked with FEMA to develop five programs to help storm victims with devastated homes. One of those programs is to provide manufactured housing units and travel trailers to those who qualify.
The Houston-Galveston Area Council, one of the state’s various councils of government, is also involved in the process of helping Harvey victims get temporary housing. The council is handling the state program at the regional level.
“HGAC contacts the eligible applicants,” Galveston County Commissioner Ken Clark said. Clark is a Houston-Galveston Area Council board member and also serves on its Transportation Policy Committee.
Harvey made landfall Aug. 25 in Rockport, about 200 miles south of Dickinson, but in the 72 or so hours that followed, it dumped more than 50 inches of rain in some parts of the area, swelling creeks and bayous and flooding about 20,000 homes in Galveston County.
Many residents whose homes flooded and still need repairs are staying in hotels or with family members. And some, like Jenny, are sleeping in their vehicle.
As many as 170 manufactured housing units are in different stages of installment in Galveston County, land office spokeswoman Brittany Eck said. Of that number, one is occupied, two are ready for occupancy and three are ready for electrical hookup, she said. Also, there are 30 work orders to haul and install units and another 134 households that are in the preliminary process of completing paperwork, Eck said.
The program also includes travel trailers that look like RVs but are not movable, Eck said. In Galveston County, nine of those are occupied, 24 are ready for occupancy and 10 are ready for electrical hookups. There are 27 work orders issued and 138 households completing paperwork, Eck said.
After Harvey, the land office became the lead agency for getting temporary housing for victims. Residents who applied for FEMA assistance and who needed and wanted temporary housing are getting help through a ladder of agencies
Harvey hit Dickinson especially hard, damaging 80 percent of the houses there, city officials said.
Jenny has had other issues with his FEMA trailer. Days after contractors installed the unit, a code enforcement officer came to the property and told Jenny he had to move it, he said.
Since then, Dickinson officials have retracted that, city spokesman Bryan Milward said. Jenny’s FEMA trailer can stay for now.
The city will require a permit for the FEMA trailers or other temporary housing units the state approved and contractors install in Dickinson, Milward said. Also, the occupants will have to get a permit for electrical hookups.
Jenny has another hang-up with his electrical hookup. The contractors, the land office and FEMA all want to install a temporary utility pole for the unit, but the city does not want that.
Dickinson officials want electrical hookups to the existing house’s hookups on the property, but the land office said that the manufactured units need a different hookup.
“Electricity can be an issue,” Eck said.
Another issue that has come up in other counties is households that were behind on electric bills and had their power turned off. The land office is working with charities to find solutions to those problems, Eck said.
In most cases, the land office estimates it should take about a week to hook up electricity to the units, she said.
“This is not a quick process,” Eck said.