Users damaged 1,200 FEMA trailers since Rita, agency says

HOUSTON – From cigarette burns to use as drug labs, more than 1,200 FEMA trailers issued to Hurricane Rita survivors have been sufficiently damaged to require serious repairs, the agency said.

About 3,000 of the one-bedroom travel trailers remain in use in Texas by residents displaced from their homes last September. The Federal Emergency Management Agency originally issued more than 4,600 of the trailers free of charge to Texas residents made homeless by the Category 3 storm.

“They’re certainly not for long-term living, and we at FEMA better understand that better than anybody,” said Don Jacks, an agency spokesman in Austin.

The trailers cost federal taxpayers about $20,000 each, the agency said.

Jacks said the trailers needing repairs were sent to FEMA repair centers in Texas and Arkansas.

Along with being converted into drug labs, the trailers have also been misused as hunting cabins. A few tenants hooked their trailers up to vehicles and relocated them for a place to stay at deer leases, Jacks said.

“They are rare instances,” Jacks said of the hunters. “You shake your head and wonder, ‘What are they thinking?'”

Hundreds of the trailers have sustained torn cushions, broken doors, torn-up refrigerators and other problems, the agency said. One trailer had more than 300 cigarette burns, and one was burned to the ground.

In another case, a Texas man pulled his trailer to Louisiana and sold it, the agency said.

Jacks said vandalizing or removing the trailers could violate the residents’ agreements with FEMA. Only five Rita victims have been removed from trailers for violating those agreements, the agency said.

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