Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Touring the FEMA Trailer

Six of us initially traveled to tour the FEMA trailer, and when we pulled up to the site, we all questioned whether we could all fit into the trailer at one time. The average FEMA trailer is approximately 15ft. to 20ft. long, and maybe 7ft. to 8ft wide (at most, 160 square feet). Yet it is supposed to house up to six people and all of their possessions.

Despite the size, the Katrina victim we visited was extremely welcoming and quickly moved items from her kitchen/dining/sleeping area in order to make room. We all tripped over the dog’s food and water because the only floor space available for them was right in-front of the entryway. When I first walked into the trailer, the first thing I noticed was the smell. It was the same sickly-sweet air freshener used in airplanes. When the trailer becomes too hot or too cold, and the resident turns on the air/heat, the fan is so loud that it immediately drowns out any conversation that is below the level of shouting. The fan is so strong and the trailer so small that the temperature suddenly shifts drastically in the opposite direction, so the trailer is rarely at a comfortable medium.

Immediately to the right of the front door is the “main bedroom,” which is the size of the double bed that it contains and is separated from the main room by a sliding door. On the “far” wall, directly in front of the front door is a sofa/bed meant to sleep 1 person. This sofa/bed is next to the kitchen sink and cabinets, which are directly across from the table and booths which also convert into another bed. The booth is right next to the refrigerator, which shares a wall with the bunk area, which sleeps two. The bunk area resembles shelves rather than sleeping quarters. There is a small opening for the residents to climb into the beds, and no ladder to the top bunk. The bunks share a wall with the single bathroom, and therefore, half of the bunks are completely closed off. This means a coffin-like atmosphere for anyone who is claustrophobic. The bathroom is triangular to save space, with the tub almost on top of the toilet and no room for anyone who is over 6 ft to sit down and actually close the door. The bathroom sink is located outside the bathroom, next to the kitchen sink. The isle between the kitchen sink and the dining table on the other side is no more than 2.5 ft wide, making it almost impossible to pass around someone working at the sink. Here ends the 360 degree tour of the trailer.

Moving around the trailer was an eye-opening experience. The woman we visited was extremely welcoming and kind to us, despite having her hopes dashed on several occasions. She had been promised a way out of the trailer numerous times, and each time the floor fell through. Yet she still made the best of her circumstances, a true model of the resilience of Mississippi Katrina victims.