Sad: Two Years Later And Hundreds Of North Dakota Flood Victims Still Living In Temporary Federal Housing

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Two years ago the City of Minot was inundated by catastrophic flood waters. About a third of the city’s population was displaced. Thousands of homes were destroyed.

Today the city is well on the road to recovery. Most homes are being rebuilt. The community is coming back together. Yet still, in a sad commentary on the state of government dependence, hundreds of temporary FEMA trailer homes are still occupied by flood victims:

KXNet – Bismarck/Minot/Williston/Dickinson

This is portrayed as a positive, and to be sure it’s nice to see the occupancy rates dropping, but the idea that there are still people living in government housing two years later is appalling.

When does temporary housing stop being temporary? Two years? Three years?

At what point are you no longer helping people who want to be helped and are instead propping up people who don’t really want to recover?

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com. In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters. He writes a weekly column for several North Dakota newspapers, and also serves as a policy fellow for the North Dakota Policy Council.

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  • mikemc1970

    When does temporary housing stop being temporary? Two years? Three years?

    You will only ever see an end to this when people get off their rears and quit expecting/waiting on the government to swoop in and save them.

    • yy4u2

      Exactly. Safety nets turning into permanent dependence.

    • jules

      Do you know any of these peoples storys..i am a single mom who has many health problems and hsve been unable to work i would love to be able to move on a year ago did we not loose enuff why pour salt in to a wound that id still open why humiluate those who havd been trying

  • opinionated

    My parents began paying $1000 a month in April for there’s thank god they got back in their home

    • devilschild

      I’m happy for your parents.

  • PK

    They have to RENT or buy these FEMA homes now. How is that “propping up people who don’t really want to recover”? It’s hard to find anything to rent under $1000 in Minot and banks aren’t throwing money around to anyone these days. This was a rather fast recovery, considering it coincided with a large oil induced building boom, relative to how other states have handled these situations. Maybe go out and interview these folks and ask them why they’re still living in small FEMA trailers instead of just assuming they’re all basically lazy. How many are elderly? How many lost their paid-for homes and everything in them? How many have filed bankruptcy that destroyed their credit? They’re all bums, right?

    http://www.minotdailynews.com/page/content.detail/id/568569.html

    http://governor.nd.gov/media-center/news/dalrymple-seeks-90-day-extension-fema-temporary-housing-program-minot

    • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

      The ones that are still living in government housing?

      At this point, its clear they don’t want to help themselves.

      • devilschild

        Maybe some of them are waiting to get into low income housing that was lost in the flood. You can’t automatically assume they are all too lazy to move on. Frankly you should be praising the large amount of people that have found their way out of this type of housing.

      • PK

        I don’t see how you can make that statement without interviewing any of those people still living in those trailers. You don’t know their stories.

        • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

          Sure I do. Those stories never really change. I’m sure they’ve got all sorts of excuses, and I’m sure those excuses aren’t very good ones.

          Minot has a booming economy, and plenty of reasonably-priced housing. There’s no excuse to still be living in a government trailer two years later.

  • Anti-NCAA

    I suppose each case could be looked at differently. Some might truly be having issues, while others are simply squatters still sucking at the teat?

    • GameND

      If they are living in FEMAville now, they are either low income, or they are paying market rent for the trailers.

  • Lianne

    The reasons are as varied as the number who remain in the trailers, but I remember back in December 2011 when I was assisting some flood survivors, one woman said she didn’t have to be out before December 2013 and she wasn’t leaving before that cuz she didn’t have to pay rent or electricity. She had no intention of even presenting a plan to vacate.

    • cylde

      After two years of no rent or electric bills they should have saved at least $500 a month for a $I2,000 down payment on another house plus what ever they got from their insurance company.

      • Lianne

        Or have a lot more money for bingo and casinos.

  • GameND

    Wow, as a Minot resident, I am so offended by this post, and it is painfully obvious that the author has never actually spent any time talking to the people who actually are on the ground working on this issue.

    Let me tell you just a few of the stories I have personally worked with.

    1) A family of 6 who just found out that the house they were rebuilding had previously undetected structural problems and will have to be razed. They have spent every weekend and free day for the last two years re-building there home, have paid their mortgage, and now have to pay around $1000 in rent to their trailer. He is an Airmen who is also self-employed on the side.

    2) A Vet with PTSD who is also self-employed. His business was destroyed, and he has rebuilt it, but his home is still not finished as he put his time and effort into first sustaining his business. However, he has failed, and is now going to lose both his home and his business. As his finances are wreaked, Apartments are rejecting him because he can’t get through the credit test. As you would suspect, his mental health is not good and in fact, he has been on suicide watch.

    3) An elderly couple that is in the flood zone in a house that has already been destroyed by the city. However, they promised buy out has not came yet. They make there mortgage payment every month, because that is “the right thing to do”. They also pay the rent on the FEMA trailer. They have a plan to move out, but can’t until they can clear the old mortgage off their debt load.

    These are just three of the many stories that exist in Minot. Each of these people have had to go through extraordinary struggles and none of them want to be living in a FEMA trailer. All of them have been working very hard to get out, but have not been able to yet. Some of them will end up buying their FEMA homes because nothing else will work for them. None of these people should ever be told that they are freeloaders or unwilling to help themselves.

    • devilschild

      It was said after the GF/EGF flood that on the average it takes 5 years to recover from a flood. Finances for many people are destroyed by the devastation. Sure…a few people will take advantage of any situation but as you have stated many others are just trying to make it out of this hell.

      • Lianne

        Of course, they also received a lot more money than the folks in Grand Forks. I believe all the studies that are done is a waste of the money. Many are required by the federal bureaucrats.

      • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

        Oh, it’s more than a few taking advantage.

    • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

      I doubt these cherry-picked anecdotes are at all representative of the stories of most of those still in FEMA trailers.

      And I had family living in FEMA trailers. Operative word there is “had.” They worked their butts off, and got out of the trailer despite facing many of the same challenges you mentioned.

      If we made these trailers available forever, they’d be occupied forever by some.

      • PK

        “I doubt these cherry-picked anecdotes are at all representative of the stories of most of those still in FEMA trailers.”

        Why not be an actual journalist and go out and interview these people and actually find out? Someone living off the system can get a nicer apartment than a cheap FEMA home, are you kidding me? “cherry-picked anecdotes” or real stories of real people? People that you will never know because you’re a lazy blogger with a big ego. “His finger’s on the trigger..”

        • http://realitybasedbob.sayanythingblog.com/ realitybasedbob

          One thing our host readily admits, is that he is not in any way a journalist and should never, ever be considered as one.

          • PK

            Yeah i know, but he always defends his position as though he is a journalist with mountains of evidence.

          • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

            Sorry, I guess I’ll use less evidence in the future to back up my assertions!

          • PK

            Yeah…, i said “as though” you are a journalist with evidence, implying that many of your opinions that you defend, aren’t backed up with evidence, like this post.

          • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

            Well, to be fair, your opinions on this post aren’t exactly backed up with evidence either, are they?

          • PK

            I posted 2 articles about how these homes need to be rented now, and the Governor of our State getting extensions for them. Everything else i said is just common sense and was backed up by GameND’s testimony that some people still living in those homes aren’t as you portray them.

          • two_tinfoil_hats

            In another thread you presented an argument as of it was supported by evidence and fact, but produced neither.

            So again I ask you; in what cities were the drive a drunk home policies used and where’s the data showing they worked?

          • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

            I don’t know that such a policy has worked, but what we do know is that the path we’re on for DUI enforcement here in ND isn’t working. It’s not lowering drunk driving deaths or injuries.

          • two_tinfoil_hats

            Then why did you refer to the program as one “that actually works”?

            I’ll tell you why, because you falsely appeal to authority when your’e in a debate to fake that you know what you’re talking about when you really have no idea.

            That’s fraudulent, and then you have the nerve to slam journalists who actually have standards.

          • SAB_Guest

            Wow! You just made that up.

            Less than half as many people have been killed in alcohol-related traffic crashes on North Dakota roads so far in 2011 compared to the same period in 2010.

            The DOT and law enforcement agencies are crediting the formation of regional DUI task forces, which began conducting saturation patrols last October around times known for alcohol-related crashes, for the decline in alcohol-related fatalities. No alcohol-related fatalities have occurred during saturation patrols by the task forces, Mark Nelson, safety division director for DOT, said at a news conference Wednesday morning.

            http://bismarcktribune.com/news/local/crime-and-courts/alcohol-related-fatalities-down-following-creation-of-north-dakota-dui/article_47f2dd80-c902-11e0-8eec-001cc4c002e0.html

          • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

            I don’t like the term journalist because I don’t like being associated with people who are dishonest about their biases. I wear mine on my sleeve.

        • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

          Sorry, but “temporary” FEMA housing that is occupied for years on end is a self-evident problem. You clearly haven’t seen the inside of one of these things. They’re not intended to be lived in for years on end. Nor should taxpayers be asked to bear that expense.

          • PK

            Yeah i know what they look like and are all built to HUD specs. I already said they’re cheap, implying junk. Then i said someone who’s just milking the system can get a nicer apartment paid for, rather than staying in a FEMA trailer. Either way, taxpayers are going to pay for certain people to live until the welfare system is fixed, so i’m not sure why you’re bitching about some people still living in these crap trailers.

          • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

            So now you’re admitting that these people are living off the system. Before you called me a “lazy blogger” for reaching that conclusion.

            Interesting…

        • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

          I guess what you could do is start your own blog, build up a reputation and readership so that people actually cars what you write about, and then go out and interview these people and prove how I’m wrong.

          But then, you just admitted in another comment that these people are living off the system. So maybe we don’t disagree after all?

          • PK

            I never said they’re all living off the system. Where did i say that? I said if certain people are living off the system, what difference does it make if they’re in a FEMA home or an apartment, that’s paid for by taxpayers? I don’t deny there are those people, but to say everyone still living in a FEMA home are those people, as you do, is a misrepresentation and unfair. But apparently the burden of proof is on me, and that i should start a blog and go interview these people. Until then nobody actually cares about what i write. Are we in the 7th grade?

          • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

            I’ve never suggested that everyone still living in the FEMA trailers is a welfare case. I’ve said that the trailers still be occupied years later is a self-evident problem.

            It’s ridiculous. Our bankrupt federal government is now providing housing for years after a flood?

            C’mon. Let’s live out in the real world.

          • PK

            Really?

            “but the idea that there are still people living in government housing two years later is appalling.”

            “people who don’t really want to recover”

            “At this point, its clear they don’t want to help themselves.”

            “Sure I do. Those stories never really change. I’m sure they’ve got all sorts of excuses, and I’m sure those excuses aren’t very good ones.”

            “There’s no excuse to still be living in a government trailer two years later.”

            I’ve never said it’s a good thing there are people still living there, i’m just defending the real people who are having real problems from your generalization that they’re all milking the system. I know how the world works, i don’t need you to tell me.

          • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

            And my point is that these people don’t have a lot of incentive to fix their problems while the taxpayers pay for (or at least subsidize) a trailer for them to live in.

            There’s a point at which a safety net becomes a hammock.

          • devilschild

            At the end of the day it is the city’s responsibility to close the FEMA trailer parks. I remember in EGF there was a set date and people had to be out by then.

          • PK

            I understand your overall premise of the entire post, but you’re also saying that everyone still in these trailers aren’t trying to get out.

          • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

            Two years later, I think it’s fair to question their desire to get out.

          • PK

            Sure you can question their desire, but you’ve already given their verdict and it’s guilty, with no proof. And the burden of proof is on me because i disagree.

          • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

            I think there is plenty of evidence in hundreds of people still living in these trailers two years later.

      • GameND

        I have no doubt that a few of your cherry-picked anecdotes about people who are lazy and living off the system are not at all representative of a majority of the people who live in the FEMA

        I am glad your family got out. However, if one or two things had went wrong in their lives, they could be living in FEMA trailers today. They worked hard and had no more major crisis come up. Good for them. A vast majority of people who lived in FEMA had this kind of a blessing. That is why most of them got out. But not everybody was so lucky.

        You know, this issue is exactly why I could never become a Republican. I am pro-gun, and pro-life. I want a balanced budget. I think that too much government regulation is stupid.

        However, I can never embrace the GOP/Conservative viewpoint that I am morally superior to those that have less than me. It if but for the grace of God and because of some wonderful luck that I have had in life that I am not living in a FEMA trailer or living on welfare. Have I worked hard, yes, but why is it my place to decide that those who have less than I have not worked hard? Why is it up to me to point out the faults of others?

        • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

          So, we shouldn’t ever judge anyone?

          I’m sorry, but actions have consequences. The decisions people make impact how they live their lives. There’s such a thing as just plain bad luck, but generally people earn their station in life.

          I believe in personal responsibility.

          Also, I’d point out that government programs like FEMA trailers have usurped the role of family and organizations like churches in our society. Had my family not been able to make it back into their homes in a timely manner, they’d have probably have lived with me and other families. Were the FEMA trailers not around, they’d have done that from the get-go. In fact, we had family living in our house for months after the flood.

          Our government is bankrupt, and these sort of government programs undermine the responsibilities of family and community.

          It is wrong – fundamentally, undeniably wrong – for the government to provide trailers for years after a disaster like this.

          • GameND

            Do you think that somebody living in a 2 year old FEMA trailer is not already facing the consequences. of their actions? What do you think their consequences should be? Should they be forced to live on the street? Would you rather have a few hundred more homeless people living in Minot? How much more pain do you think is appropriate for a person who has already lost their home to a flood to feel? Should we just burn their FEMA trailers to make sure they really know they messed up?

            We all judge, it is human nature, however, the bible teaches us that we should not be quick to point out others faults while ignoring our own.

            I don’t think the Government has usurped the role of Churches, I think that Churches have failed miserly in their mission. That is why I have chosen to join a Church that has a very active anti-poverty outreach. My little Church provides assistance to thousands of people a year.

            However, a vast majority of Church’s in America are more a show off social club for judgmental people who are more concerned about using church to promote republican talking points than doing anything that Christ demanded. . Considering the vast wealth in our country, we could lift every person out of poverty and close down all government welfare programs if the Churches would just do what they were commanded to do by Christ.

          • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

            We all judge, it is human nature, however, the bible teaches us that we should not be quick to point out others faults while ignoring our own.

            I’m not a Christian, but that sounds suspiciously like self-defeating crap.

            Because I’m not a perfect person myself, I can’t point out problems elsewhere in the world?

            Wow.

            As for churches, there is no question that government has usurped private charity. We used to look to each other for help. Now we look to the government, which does it poorly.

          • SAB_Guest

            How many people did you house during the relief, crap pointer outer?

    • Lianne

      I don’t know the Vet, and I know little about the Purple Heart Homes ou t of NC, but I would think it worth your effort to research them to see if they can build a home for your vet.
      Everyone who went through this flood responds differently. I will say that those who look for the government for answers generally responded differently than those who don’t.
      The mentality of this country has changed from independent self sufficient citizens to dependent helpless groups of people.
      There are those who do for themselves and still get kicked in the teeth. Is Hope Village aware of the airman and his family?
      Waiting for a buy out that may never come is in general a poor decision.

  • nimrod

    I would guess that most of the people still living in FEMA trailers, were renters, and not owners, so they never really lost much in the flood, and got to live a few years rent free. Only now are they starting to pay, and $1000/ month probably isn’t too bad of a rate, considering what 2 bedroom apartments are renting for.

    • GameND

      The FEMA rate is based on market rent. So it is about the same as an average two bedroom apartment.

      Yes some apartments are more, but the average is the same as a FEMA trailer.

  • Drain52

    I wonder if this note will vanish into Disqus ether as apparently my first one did.

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