FEMA Canvasses Walden Pond
The agency is registering residents who wish to apply for aid.
Federal Emergency Management Agency officials paid a visit Thursday to the Walden Pond mobile home park in New Port Richey to register tenants who wish to apply for disaster recovery aid.
Walden Pond is closing, effective July 31, and residents have been sent letters from the owners telling them to vacate by 11:59 p.m. on that day. The letters are dated July 6.
“We want to speak with every resident to make sure that they are registered with FEMA before they have to leave the park,” said FEMA spokeswoman Renee Bafalis. “Now normally we just go around asking them to register, but today, because the time frame is getting very short, we are physically registering them."
The FEMA employees, accompanied by a State Emergency Response Team employee, went around using their cell phones and talking to the residents and asking if they want assistance from FEMA.
“If they get registered with us, we might be able to help them with rental assistance if they have no other location to go to,” Bafalis said.
By the end of the day, FEMA hopes to have spoken to 40 families, Bafalis said. Pasco County was declared a federal disaster area in response to Tropical Storm Debby’s impact on the county, and the declaration is still in effect. To be eligible for assistance from FEMA, residents must have sustained damages from the storm or subsequent flooding.
“Most of the people that we have spoken to have reported damages,” said William Condon, community relations team leader.
Most of the residents of the park are renters (there two people who own their trailers as far as Condon knows). FEMA is talking to residents about damage to their personal items and the potential for rental assistance.
Bafalis said FEMA provides those eligible for rental assistance with funding to rent a safe and sanitary place to live.
Lara Curtis, a park tenant, said she hopes FEMA will be able to help folks who had damages, especially tenants who don’t speak English fluently. There tenants who effectively only speak Spanish.
“They don’t even know about FEMA,” she said.
Park residents have talked about the manager not being present and maintenance issues. The New Port Richey code enforcement officer earlier this month issued a written warning about trash and debris throughout the property. She has also spotted other code enforcement issues.
Once residents register with FEMA, someone should be able to make it out to the residence within two days to inspect the damage, Bafalis said.
Walden Pond residents who missed the FEMA visit can go to www.DisasterAssistance.gov. to register or they can call 800-621-3362 seven days a week. They can also go to the disaster recovery center in Pasco at 4444 Grand Blvd. People who suffered damage from the storms that have followed Debby may also be eligible for assistance.
How to help: Bafalis suggests residents who want to help those impacted by Walden Pond's closing or Tropical Storm Debby pay a visit to the Disaster Recovery Center for Pasco, where nonprofits and government officials are gathered under one roof. The Red Cross and other social service agencies have been there, she said. The are crisis and legal aid counselors at FEMA’s recovery centers.
The recovery center is located at 4444 Grand Avenue and is open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.