ENGLEWOOD — The FEMA temporary housing site in Englewood is reaching its final stages of construction, and families are expected to move into the units in approximately three weeks. The housing program aims to assist those displaced by Hurricane Ian, who have already enrolled in the initiative.

According to FEMA Public Information Officer Johanna Strickland, eligible individuals will attend a meeting with a case manager, sign a licensing agreement, and receive the keys to their new temporary homes. Notably, the housing is rent-free, and there are no income qualifications, with the primary goal of keeping families in their current communities.

FEMA logistics chief Joseph D’Angelo and FEMA assistant external affairs officer Alberto Pillot revealed that the majority of applicants in the FEMA park are from Charlotte County, with some from South Sarasota County and a few from DeSoto County. These applicants have been either staying with friends and family or moving from one hotel to another.

The duration of each family’s stay at the park will depend on their plans to secure permanent housing. D’Angelo stated that families may remain for up to 18 months from the date of the disaster (Sept. 28), but extensions are possible for those who require a longer stay. The intention is to work closely with the applicants and find them suitable permanent solutions within the allotted timeframe.

The site currently has the capacity to accommodate up to 40 manufactured housing units, although the initial phase includes 22 units. These housing units come in three variants, with one bedroom, two bedrooms, and three bedrooms respectively. Most units are designed to be “universal,” making them accessible to individuals with different physical needs.

FEMA has made the necessary modifications to ensure that some units are wheelchair-accessible, either by converting steps into ramps or providing special stepped ramps for those who use walkers.

Each housing unit comes equipped with a “living kit,” containing linens, sheets, and utensils. Additionally, the site has access to water and utilities, with electrical power lines being installed. However, Wi-Fi will not be provided, though it is available within the community.

Residents will benefit from paved roads and access to a washer and dryer hookup. Furthermore, all homes will be equipped with a specialized tank and pump system for internal fire sprinklers, aimed at providing a means of escape and protection in case of a fire incident.

Maintenance will be easily accessible, with each unit having an 800-contact number for any required upkeep. To ensure safety, security guards will be present in the FEMA park, offering 24-hour security coverage.

The location of the housing park was strategically chosen to be in proximity to essential amenities, such as a nearby Home Depot, Dollar Tree, and Publix store, all within a mile. Furthermore, FEMA collaborated closely with the local school districts and post office to ensure minimal disruption to the lives of the displaced families.

The partnership between FEMA and Charlotte County has been highly praised, with both parties working diligently on planning, zoning, permitting, and inspections. This FEMA park is one of several being utilized across Charlotte, DeSoto, and Sarasota counties to provide temporary housing for families affected by Hurricane Ian.

For those seeking assistance, area counties are actively working to support survivors, with resources available on their respective websites. Additionally, individuals who have applied with FEMA through www.disasterassistance.gov can call the Disaster Assistance Helpline at 800-621-3362 for any inquiries about their application or to update their information. The helpline is available daily from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.