From temporary to permanent
Wheatland residents turn bad fortune to good
White, boxy FEMA trailers were a fixture in the backyards of valley homes and in mobile home parks after the 2011 flood in Minot. The temporary housing units provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency were stop-gap measures for many displaced residents, who appreciated a place to stay on their way to a long-term solution.
For some residents, though, the FEMA homes were the solution.
Having purchased the temporary housing unit she lives in today, Coreen Hart considers the FEMA housing program a game-changer in her flood recovery.
“I’m grateful for having this as my home,” Hart said. “I guess I’m in a better place, because if it wasn’t for the flood, I wouldn’t have taken the steps that brought me to this point in my life right now, which is where I actually own a home, and I’m safe. I don’t have to worry about that.”
The decision to purchase their FEMA unit eight years ago gave Derek and Kathryn Borud a more secure future, putting them in a financial position to now scout the market for a larger home.
“This really worked out well for us and our benefit. We’re really thankful that we had that option,” Kathryn Borud said of buying the temporary unit. “We just got in a sticky situation with the flood, and we utilized the resources that were given to us.”
Both Hart and the Boruds live in Wheatland Village, which began as a FEMA group housing complex and transitioned to a privately-owned mobile home park, open to other manufactured homes.
FEMA had established three group housing complexes, providing 800 housing units. Those sites were De Sour Valley Heights on the outskirts of Burlington, Recovery Village northeast of Minot and Virgil Workman Village on the east end of Minot. Virgil Workman Village was the first to open, on Oct. 3, 2011, and today is known as Wheatland Village.
FEMA’s temporary housing mission in the Souris Valley came to a close in September 2013. FEMA had provided 2,052 manufactured homes to shelter 1,960 households. There were 92 households requiring two units.
The Boruds, not yet married, had just rented an apartment in west Minot three days before the 2011 flood came. The water was higher than projected, forcing them to evacuate.
They spent the first two months at hotels that were offering free, temporary housing to flood victims. They ended up staying with family for a time despite a desire not to burden relatives, and also spent quite a while living in a pop-up camper.
After about six months, they acquired a FEMA unit but ended up bouncing among a series of such units before getting a more permanent placement in a three-bedroom unit that accommodated them and Derek’s daughter.
“We’ve been in the three-bedroom ever since,” Kathryn Borud said. “This trailer was kind of like a blessing in disguise. It just helped us with being able to save money.”
They invested in renovations and interior remodeling. Derek Borud, who owned a carpentry business at the time and now works as a painter, put in new floors and cabinets and expanded a bedroom in the unit that Kathryn Borud said has held up well structurally.
The low payments enabled Kathryn to afford nursing school and provided the financial security that now lets the couple consider buying a larger house for their family, which includes a son born in January, even as Kathryn pursues her master’s degree.
A person’s attitude also makes a difference in the recovery process, Kathryn Borud said.
“You have to be able to be open and resilient to change,” she said.
Hart also had been renting before the flood. She had lived about a year in a house that included separate upper level quarters, where her daughter lived.
“Right by the river, so it was easy to judge how it was climbing up,” she recalled of 2011. “When they evacuated us the first time and we got to go back home, I thought this is just a bunch of malarkey. It’s not going to happen. The only thing, I think, that made it real to me was hearing the sirens that day.”
When the second evacuation came, she and her daughter could take only their pets and what they could fit in a van.
“It was scary. I didn’t have anywhere to go,” said Hart, who hadn’t wanted to be parted from her three Dachshunds. She eventually was able to move in with friends for four months.
Her first FEMA temporary housing unit was a small model in a mobile home park. FEMA later moved her to a unit in Virgil Workman Village, which came to have roof issues, so she moved to a different unit in 2012, which she now owns.
Hart worked with FEMA staff to obtain her unit at an affordable price, with help from a state low-interest loan. She built a storage shed and finds the mobile home is just right for her and her dogs.
Hart said the former FEMA unit gives her stability, ownership and enables her to remain in Minot. Her daughter also continues to live in Minot.
Hart said living in the former FEMA park brings back flood memories at times, but she feels she has more than recovered from the 2011 disaster.
“There was way more good than there was bad. It was just getting from that point to this point,” she said. “Do I wish we didn’t have the flood? Yeah. But, like I said, that flood is what brought me to where I’m at today.”