OREGON -- The Federal Emergency Management Agency is ramping up their Direct Temporary Housing Program months after wildfires destroyed several communities in western Oregon.
Survivors have been on a long road to recovery since the fires erupted in September.
Starting next month, Linn County will be among Oregon counties receiving housing relief in the form of temporary housing units. Nearly 220 families qualified for this type of assistance between Jackson, Lincoln, Linn and Marion counties. Officials say 20 families in Linn and Marion counties will benefit from this relief.
La-Tanga Hopes is a Public Affairs Specialist with FEMA.
“We are helping disaster survivors,” Hopes said. “Before disasters, during disasters and even afterwards -- which is what we're doing right now and the recovery period is continuing with the work that has come.”
The homes are called Manufactured Housing Units and have a thermostat, a kitchen, and a shower. They’re well-lit and many can fit four people. There are also single units, and FEMA has even had to combine units for large families.
“It looks like home,” Hopes said. “It looks like safety. It looks like a place to rest for people that have no place else to go.”
This program is provided to survivors for up to 18 months.
For those who applied and were accepted, the homes are completely free. This comes in the form of a grant after the federal government and the state worked hand-in-hand. However, residents living in a rent-free unit are required to pay their own utility bills.
Lane County officials said they originally applied for the help, but they did not get accepted. They did reapply.
“We're more hopeful this time,” Buch said. “There are some different properties that we’re entertaining and trying to look for more to fill as many of those housing needs as possible.”
Buch said the county has been in constant communication with the State and FEMA to work through issues that came up in the first round.
“We think we have a pretty strong appeal, where they will be able to help us,” Buch said. “We need that help. Of course, we have a lot of people that still need housing and they need it in the community in which the wildfire actually occurred.”
Hopes said that Lane County will not be completely excluded, but there are certain factors FEMA looks closely at.
“Is there a place to develop for manufactured homes to be placed in that community?" Hopes asked. "Will the community be accepting of the homes? There are some places that will just completely outright resist it.”
She said the decisions are based on need and FEMA’s ability to delivery support.
While they wait, Buch encourages anyone seeking assistance in Lane County to reach out.
“There is assistance available, and we'll do everything that we can in order to help you,” Buch said. “We'll be in it for the long run until rebuilding and recovery is complete. That will take some time, but we're in it for the long haul.”
She said the county is working with various agencies and associations down the McKenzie Corridor to bring relief to the community.
“We know it's been a really rough year, especially for those who have been not only affected by COVID but also the wildfires,” Buch said. “So we're looking forward to getting recovery underway in 2021. We know that people are resilient, and we've seen the best of people come out and help and care for our entire community.”
For disaster assistance, called FEMA at 800-621-3362 or CLICK HERE. Even if you missed the registration deadline, you are still encouraged to call.
“We're here and committed to making sure there's a good recovery,” Hopes said.