Nearly a year after the 2011 flood, 1,471 flood-impacted households in the Souris River Valley continue to live in temporary housing units provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
FEMA released the latest figures, as of May 31, this month.
The numbers show that residents are returning home or finding new homes, although it is taking time. More than 2,000 FEMA housing units were put into service in Ward County since last fall. The peak number occupied at any one time was 1,958 units. At an average of three persons per unit, that population would be North Dakota's 13th largest city.
Jill Schramm/MDN • Hundreds of FEMA units remain in Virgil Workman Village, southeast of Minot.
More than 750 of the units have been in group sites, while the remainder have been scattered around the valley on private sites.
Adam and Alyssa Cool have been living in Virgil Workman Village, the group site southeast of Minot, while repairing the house that they had lived in only a year before the flood came.
They and their young son lived with Adam's parents for five months and likely would still be there were it not for the availability of FEMA housing.
"It's nice to have a place of your own," Adam Cool said.
Alyssa Cool added that it has been a stressful and frustrating process, but they are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel as the completion of their house project nears.
Stressful and frustrating are words used a lot by residents who have found that recovery hasn't been easy. It might be a year later, but it's not over, say those who still have a ways to go to get back into their homes or find new homes.
Richard LaFromboise said the rental property that he had lived in remains unrepaired with a "for sale" sign in front of it. So rather than looking to move back, he's searching for another place to rent, finding little available and at prices far beyond his budget.
A resident of Minot for the past eight years, LaFromboise said he stays because of the work. A native of the Turtle Mountains, jobs and housing are both scarce there, he said.
Many others in the FEMA villages share his concern about housing prices and wonder if there will be a place for them when the day comes that FEMA ends its Minot mission. FEMA reports that the housing mission in Minot is expected to last at least 18 months. That would complete the mission in December, but FEMA spokesman Brian Hvinden said the agency will be re-assessing the situation as that date draws near.
FEMA village residents are simply anxious for a place of their own, maybe with yards for the kids to play, or for a return to the familiarity of old neighborhoods.
"It's time to get back to normalcy," one village resident said.
Anna Winters-Jones and her family hope to see that day come very soon.
The Mennonite Disaster Services team helping to repair their home has scheduled a house blessing for June 26.
"I am hoping that we can start moving in after that. We are very blessed," Winters-Jones said. "We are really excited about that."
Living in Virgil Workman Village since last October, she and her husband and three children appreciated having FEMA housing while rebuilding. The family had gone through various health and other issues in the year before the flood added another blow.
"It's been one thing after another but this probably shook us more to the core because your basic needs aren't there," Winters-Jones said. "With this, we were out of our element. We are very proud people. You have to ask for help. You have to ask for that a lot."
FEMA began moving housing units onto private sites last July and moving residents into the group sites in October. The agency placed all residents needing housing by Christmas.
An overview of the housing today is as follows:
- DeSour Valley Heights, located in Burlington along U.S. Highway 2, is a 50-unit site that filled in October. The park was housing 44 households as of May 31.
- Virgil Workman Village, located east of Minot on 55th Street, is comprised of three parks containing 200 homes each for a total of 600. Opened in October, the last count showed 532 households remaining.
- Recovery Village, located on the northeast edge of Minot on 42nd Street, was the final group site to come online in November. The site was built for nearly 200 homes and was housing 47 households at last count.
- FEMA placed housing units at 1,118 private sites. Currently, 635 units remain.
- FEMA leased space in six mobile home parks to place 250 households and as of May 31 was housing 213 households in Holiday Village, Gulli's, Burlington, Jefferson and Gold Nugget.