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Estero flood shelter to close doors

By Staff | Oct 1, 2008

The Estero Community Center, which has acted as a shelter for the families displaced by flood waters from Tropical Storm Fay, will be shutting its doors Oct. 10.

Now, county staffers are scrambling, trying to figure out what to do with the nearly 600 people who still have no temporary housing and will not be allowed to return to their damaged homes in the Manna Christian and Saldivar mobile home parks in Bonita Springs.

Approximately 30 of the 194 mobile homes at Manna Christian are habitable, according to Anne Arnold of Lee County Human Services.

Arnold went on to say that only $60,000 has been raised by the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, and an additional $10,000 by the Red Cross.

She said that would not stretch very far in helping the families find new homes, and does not expect FEMA to provide much assistance.

“FEMA was not willing to bring in trailers,” Arnold told commissioners, adding the trailers were deemed uninhabitable by FEMA due to complications from being deployed to help during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. “The ‘no’ has been predominant about bringing in the trailers.”

Arnold said some families are moving on, but some are holding out — for a new home in Lee County, or maybe even a return to their flood damaged homes at one of the mobile home parks — but with no affordable housing in Estero and Bonita Springs, many families are now looking at becoming homeless once the shelter closes its doors.

Funding sources will also be a problem as the city of Bonita Springs is not equipped to tackle the financial responsibility.

“Local resources in Bonita will not be there. Funding will have to come from the county,” she said.

At question, too, is what will happen to the parks themselves.

Currently, county commissioners are thinking of purchasing the often-flooded land to prevent people from moving back due to the possibility of it flooding again. Similar flooding conditions forced the evacuation of Manna Christian in 1995.

Commissioners are currently waiting on an appraisal of Manna Christian, which is due Oct. 23.

Commissioner Frank Mann is not certain purchasing the land is the right move to make.

“I’m not committed to buying some property that floods every year because it floods every year,” he said. “There’s thousands of acres of land across the county that floods every year.”

According to Mann, the parcel of land on which Manna Christian sits is not listed on federal flood zone maps.