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Residents Along The Jersey Shore Anxiously Await FEMA Housing

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By Robin Rieger

ABSECON, NJ (CBS) – A one bedroom trailer –- even with minimal furnishings, a bathroom and kitchenette — is what Tony and Lois Williams of Ortley Beach would prefer over the small Holiday Inn hotel room in Absecon that they have called home for the last several weeks. The staff have been great, they say, but the room…

“The closeness is very bad. I can’t stay in the room. I go out and walk around,” says Tony Williams.

They’re hoping to qualify for one of at least 50 trailers FEMA is now making available to homeowners who are rebuilding after Superstorm Sandy.

“It would give us a little more freedom to move around instead of bumping into each other,” Lois says.

Their home on Ortley Beach used to be for sale. The deal they had fell through when the house was declared a total loss.

“We can’t see getting back there much before about a year,” Lois says.

That’s the kind of person FEMA is looking for when doling out the trailers.

“Our program runs up to 18 months, and most of the people that will be identified for these will be homeowners that are rebuilding their damaged dwelling,” explains Donna Weise, a FEMA housing group supervisor.

FEMA will place trailers in different mobile home parks near their homes, but not in flood zones.

“Where their children are in school, where their jobs are …those types of criteria,” Weise says.

“Renters have access to what FEMA calls a robust data base, so we’re trying to identify additional rental resources for the renters. Not to say that a renter that would be eligible…primarily, it would be homeowners rebuilding homes,” Weise adds.

The Williams are hoping not to wake up Christmas morning in a hotel room but know that a lot will be different this year.

“It’s sentimental things — the grandchildren, they don’t really want it,” says Tony.

But one grandson has already gotten a gift money can’t buy:

“He keeps saying, ‘You’re here, that’s the important thing,’” Tony says.

Some displaced residents, including the Williams, say what is most stressful is not learning from FEMA until the last minute about an extension of their stay. Many thought they would have to move out of hotel rooms December 13th. The extension, announced Tuesday, gives them until December 27th.

“We will never allow folks to leave hotel or motel that’s FEMA sponsored and not have a place to go,” says NJ Department of Community Affairs Commissioner Richard Constable.

FEMA says its applicant services representatives will determine who fits the criteria for one, two and three bedroom trailers and that additional housing is being prepared at Fort Monmouth. Weise advises all displaced residents to call and make sure their information with FEMA is up-to-date.

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