It has become clear that neither the state nor the federal government had a workable plan for providing temporary housing after the flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey.
This is despite the fact that both have years of experience in dealing with similar natural disasters. Despite the hurricanes and other floods of the past, they both are still just winging it.
The most recent evidence comes from Dickinson where a Federal Emergency Management Agency trailer has been sitting in Dorothy Anderson’s front yard on Longwood Lane for about a month and a half, while she continues to reside in her flood-damaged house.
Anderson, who shares her home with her son, Anthony Anderson, received the trailer about six weeks ago, which would have been about 10 weeks after the flood.
She’s not seen inside the trailer, much less moved into it to live, because it has not been connected to water and sewer services.
It’s clear that this situation is the norm, rather than some blip in an otherwise well-functioning program.
Anderson’s experience is the same in its important details as what befell Jeff Jenny, who we reported in late November couldn’t live in the large trailer blocking his house on Woodland Drive in Dickinson because contractors hadn’t connected it to electric service.
And the same as Erika Ortega’s, who also waited weeks for services to be connected so she could move into a FEMA trailer.
Anderson told a Daily News reporter that a contractor arrives every few days to work on the trailer, often at odd hours, but no one has told her when she might be able to get in it.
“The house will be done and they’ll still be working on the yard and trailer,” Dorothy Anderson said. “It just aggravates me.”
It’s an aggravating situation, and here’s why:
This is not a matter of whether the government should invest heaps of public money toward providing safe, sanitary housing after natural disasters. That’s a debate for another day.
Whether doing so is right or wrong in principle, the government has committed to spending and is in the process of spending billions of tax dollars on post-disaster aid.
Every one of those trailers represents a substantial public investment. Every time a contractor shows up it represents a bill to the taxpayers.
This will cost the public a lot; that’s a given.
The only question is whether those public dollars are going to be spent in ways that do some public good, or whether they’ll be spent in ways that funnel public money into private pockets without accomplishing much of anything else.
What we see here is the latter.
It’s past time for officials at every level of government to get these efforts out of the mud and working efficiently.
• Michael A. Smith