David Stephens’ children romped around the small patch of grass they’ve turned into a makeshift playground, running and laughing — seemingly without a care in the world.
Their father, though, is gripped by worry about the future. And he marvels at his kids’ resilience, considering the losses and hardships they’ve endured.
When floodwaters engulfed their eastern Kentucky home in late July, they moved into a motel. Now, Stephens, his 8-year-old son, Loki, and 6-year-old daughter, Kerrigan, are staying in a travel trailer in Prestonsburg, Kentucky — taking their place among those displaced by the disaster in a recreational area filled with lawn chairs, picnic tables, bikes and toys as people grasp for some sense of normalcy.
“My kids are pretty tough, and we’ve been through a lot,” David said. “We lost everything we had.”
They’re staying at a state park campground, where trailers set up in long rows have become temporary homes for families trying to figure out how and where to rebuild after historic flooding caused at least 39 deaths in the state.
Some victims still are waiting for checks they hope are coming from the federal government. Others have gotten their money but are stuck on waiting lists for in-demand carpentry crews.
Fleets of trailers are descending on the Appalachian region — some brought in from western Kentucky, where they served a similar purpose for people who lost homes when tornadoes hit in December.
Kentucky is receiving as many as 300 donated travel trailers from another state well-acquainted with natural disaster, Louisiana. Sixty-five trailers have arrived so far, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said at a news conference in Frankfort on Thursday.
The trailers originally were acquired to shelter people displaced by Hurricane Ida in 2021.
In eastern Kentucky, about 300 people have moved into 100 trailers at various sites, with more on the way or being prepared onsite for people still waiting, Beshear said. Area state parks are still housing more than 340 people left homeless by the flooding.
“Getting the trailers is not our challenge,” the governor said. “It’s safe places to hook them up. It’s the electric; it’s the utilities. And we continue to search for more.”
The trailers offer a place where families can “spread out a little bit,” Beshear said. During a recent stop in Hazard, he saw trailers being set up at a park offering a range of recreational activities.
In the desperate days after floodwaters inundated homes, and swept some away, many people in the region took refuge in makeshift shelters at churches and schools. The trailers are part of a progression toward the ultimate goal — getting people back into permanent housing.
The governor emphasized the trailers aren’t a long-term solution to housing challenges.
“We don’t want these to be forever homes,” Beshear said. “This is not the end; this is the middle. This is intermediate housing.”
But some occupants expect to spend the coming holidays and at least part of 2023 in the trailers. They’re grateful for the temporary lodging but long for something more settled.
“Having a place of your own is good, but I’d rather it be like a house,” said Jordan Perkins, 31, who is sharing a trailer with his girlfriend along with their dog and cat.
He hopes a carpenter gets to work rebuilding his grandfather’s house, where he lived and worked as an IT specialist before the flood hit. His grandfather is staying with a family friend. Lacking internet service at the trailer, Perkins bought boxed sets of TV shows on Blu-ray to pass some of the time.
“I wish I had internet and phone service,” he said. “That’s really the biggest problem with being over here. You’re isolated.”
The Western Journal has reviewed this Associated Press story and may have altered it prior to publication to ensure that it meets our editorial standards.
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