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The Miami Herald
April 23, 2007 Monday

Families move out of trailers to meet FEMA deadline;
Some families living in FEMA trailers moved out over the weekend to beat the federal agency's Tuesday deadline.


For Hurricane Wilma victims like Linda Schutte, moving out of a Federal Emergency Management Agency trailer is an opportunity to live like other people again.

No more using bunk beds as dressers for folded clothes. No more pulling an outside lever to flush waste into the ground. No more using a shower that merely sprinkles. No more living in a home on wheels.

Schutte is one of dozens of Hurricane Wilma families living in FEMA housing who spent the weekend packing their belongings to beat the Tuesday move-out deadline set by FEMA for victims of Wilma.

She's moving from a Davie mobile home park to a two-bedroom condo she will rent in the town.

Hurricane Wilma stormed through Broward 18 months ago, demolishing homes and uprooting thousands of people.

''I want a real bathroom with a real shower,'' said Schutte, who lived in the travel trailer with two daughters after her Davie mobile home crumbled under Wilma's force. ``It's time to move on.''

As of Friday, Broward had 26 occupied FEMA housing units, down from a peak of 488 after the storm.

Monroe County had 49 occupied units left Friday, down from a high of 437.

Thirty charitable and public agencies, including FEMA, Adopt a Hurricane Family, Volunteer Broward and Broward County, are helping place the few remaining families still in FEMA housing.

''FEMA does not expect to see anyone thrown out on the street,'' wrote Jim Homstad, a FEMA spokesman, in an e-mail.

Adopt a Hurricane Family is paying Schutte's electric deposit and giving her new beds. For other victims, the agency is selling refurbished FEMA mobile homes, which are larger than the travel trailers, to victims for $500.

Owners will have to pay lot rent, usually about $478 a month.

Families that participate in that program have an additional six to eight weeks -- or longer -- to live in the FEMA housing while the homes are being purchased.

''We just want to help the hurricane victims out there,'' said Craig Vanderlaan, founder of Adopt a Hurricane Family.

James Cinelli, 44, is ecstatic that he will be an owner of a refurbished mobile home through the Adopt a Hurricane Family program. He's never owned anything other than his 1991 Camaro.

Cinelli lived in an apartment with his wife when Hurricane Wilma ripped off the roof.

He said over and over how thankful he is for the FEMA trailer he lives in at Davie's Sunshine Village, but the four steps leading up to the door are a chore for him to manage.

He has cerebral palsy and sometimes falls down the steps while trying to enter the trailer. Cinelli's refurbished mobile home will have a ramp.

''I was scared to death about where we were going to go,'' Cinelli said. ``I am thankful that I won't be homeless.''

Lauderhill condo owner Michele Williams will also move into a refurbished mobile home. She's tired of waiting for her condo, which suffered severe mold and mildew damage, to be repaired. Despite going to condo board meetings, she can't get a firm answer when she asks when the work will be finished.

She and her 11-year-old son have lived in a travel trailer since December 2005. And although she's already a homeowner, she said moving into the mobile home is essential.

''It's frustrating. I didn't think we'd be here this long,'' said Williams, 42. ``But it's time to move into a home.''

Miami Herald staff writer Amy Sherman contributed to this report.


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