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South Mississippi Living 4/07

Thursday, July 12, 2007

FEMA trailer park to remain open in Bay St. Louis

The Associated Press
July 11, 2007

BAY ST. LOUIS, Miss. --A FEMA trailer park on U.S. 90 near Hancock Medical Center in Bay St. Louis will remain open for several more months.

The City Council this week agreed to allow the Bay Village Trailer Park to operate until Jan. 31, 2008. It was scheduled to close on Aug. 31.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency had asked the city to allow the park to stay open until Jan. 31, 2009.

Bay Village was one of two parks in a one-block stretch until recently. A smaller park, on U.S. 90 to the east of Bay Village, was closed last week. In that location, FEMA had provided only pads for the trailers and did not operate a full-blown park.

Business owners have complained the park is a haven for criminal activity, including drug deals, burglary, prostitution and begging.

"This has been a major inconvenience to us," said John Rosetti, owner of Rosetti's Liquor Barrel.

Rosetti opened his store in a new building after Hurricane Katrina. He said residents of the park regularly commit crimes in the area and loiter in his parking lot, begging money from customers.

Even though police try to stay abreast of developments and FEMA-hired guards monitor an entrance gate and patrol the park, there seems to be no way to stop the crimes, Rosetti said.

FEMA representatives told council members that the park also houses residents who are not criminals. The also noted that a severe housing shortage in Bay St. Louis and Waveland means there is no place for trailer residents to go if the park is closed now.

FEMA representative Greather Heathcock said Hurricane Katrina destroyed 247 affordable apartments in Bay St. Louis and 496 apartments in Waveland.

"All we're asking for is an extension to give these apartments time to come back on board," Heathcock said.

Following the Aug. 29, 2005, hurricane, Bay Village was opened for employees of the John C. Stennis Space Center who had lost their homes. However, these residents soon moved on because relief programs sponsored by the Navy and other federal agencies became available. The trailers were then occupied by storm victims from various areas.

Phil Strouse, FEMA's local government liaison for Hancock County, said the federal agency eventually plans to start charging rent to storm victims who remain the trailers.

"Then, they're going to be paying $100 to $150 a month to live in a tin can," he said.

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