Thousands of victims of Hurricane Sandy remain temporarily housed in hotels and motels throughout the state, Federal Emergency Management Agency officials said Thursday, but the number continues to decline as families find permanent housing solutions.
FEMA held a conference call late Thursday morning to announce an extension of its Transitional Sheltering Assistance as well as to provide an update of the agency’s goal to move Sandy victims away from transitional housing into more long-term temporary solutions.
Currently, 2,790 households throughout New Jersey are still living in hotels and motels, FEMA Individual Assistance Branch Director Christy Grant said, though that number is expected to decline significantly by this weekend. According to Grant, approximately 1,300 households have relayed to FEMA that they have been able to secure alternative housing solutions and will be moving out of the hotel and motel rooms some have spent the last few months living in by as late as this Saturday.
Roughly 1,100 households that remain in hotels and motels have been granted another two-week extension, one of several FEMA has issued in the aftermath of Sandy, and are not expected to move out of their transitional shelters until the end of the month. The decision to provide the extension came following an assessment of need and conference between FEMA and the State, FEMA Spokesman Marty Bahamonde said.
Bahamonde noted that the numbers of households both staying in the TSA program and leaving it are in a constant state of flux, accounting for the current discrepancy in total figures. Each day hundreds of households continue to check out of hotels and motels as they’ve been able to make repairs to their homes, find an adequate rental, or move in to FEMA’s temporary housing program.
In all, more than 5,400 households deplaced by Hurricane Sandy have stayed in 430 hotels throughout the state, Grant said. The average stay for impacted families has been 25 days and while the need for shelter still remains, Grant said FEMA continues to work towards finding better temporary housing for those who still need it.
“It’s an assistance program, not a housing solution,” Grant said of the TSA program.
Most of the households making use of the TSA program come from Atlantic, Monmouth and Ocean Counties, some of the hardest hit areas where rebuilding efforts continue. FEMA has spend more than $17 million on hotel and motel stays alone for Sandy victims, Grant said.
FEMA continues to look for temporary housing solutions throughout the Jersey Shore area. One building with 45 units is currently housing Sandy victims at Fort Monmouth and by the end of the month a second building with 48 units is expected to open along with 44 units in 22 fort duplexes.
The disaster response agency continues to look for potential pad sites for its mobile homes and has identified about 85 potential sites in trailer parks throughout the area.
Grant said the goal isn’t to force Sandy victims out of hotel rooms, but rather to help them find more suitable accommodations until they’re able to get back on their feet and return home. She urged residents still struggling with Sandy-related housing issues to reach out to FEMA by calling its hotline at (800) 621-3362 or TTY (800) 462-7585.