PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Federal officials are in the early stages of building a temporary housing site for Linn and Marion county residents who lost everything in the 2020 wildfires.
The Mill City site will hold up to 16 temporary housing units, according to the Federal Emergency Management Association.
With the early preparations, FEMA is making sure utilities are set up and accessible for the residents before the mobile homes arrive.
With winter well underway, “heat is going to be important, cooking is going to be important, and of course, water’s always going to be the lifeblood of any survival,” said La-Tanga Hopes, a media relations specialist for FEMA.
Hopes said the manufactured homes are expected to arrive in Mill City in three to four weeks, depending on the weather.
In Oregon, 250 families have been approved to receive FEMA Direct Temporary Housing. The agency says that number has decreased over time as many households have located alternate temporary or permanent housing on their own.
In order to qualify for the Direct Temporary Housing program, Hopes said wildfire victims must file a claim, which will then be assessed. A person is eligible for temporary housing if FEMA confirms a person owned a home that suffered $17,000 or more in damages, or if FEMA confirms a renter’s home suffered major damages or was destroyed. Wildfire victims must also prove they do not have rental assistance available to them.
“We are here for the long-haul and once the direct temporary homes start rolling out, we know that we’ve made good headway because we’re at the point where we’re able to accommodate people who are in need of homes and that this may be the only option that they have available,” Hopes said.
Residents approved for temporary housing can remain in the units for up to 18 months, until March 2022.
Hopes said she hasn’t yet met anyone from Linn County who’s moving into the manufactured homes, but she’s met victims of other disasters before. She said it’s a humbling experience when they move into their temporary homes and usually, it gives them a great sense of relief.
Hopes said FEMA is working hard to be transparent with the Mill City community to inform them about what’s being done to temporarily house wildfire victims.
FEMA has also set up temporary housing units in Jackson County and is in the process of leasing a site for 20 eligible families in Lincoln County.
As of Dec. 7, 2020, FEMA had approved nearly $31 million in disaster assistance for homeowners and renters in Oregon.
Hopes said anyone who believes they should be a candidate for temporary housing or who feels their situation was overlooked should contact FEMA at 1-800-621-3362.