Miami Mayor Brent Brassfield tempered his frustrations with a dose of reality as he faced a pool of reporters gathered at a Monday press conference.
“Am I frustrated? I am extremely frustrated. (Reported formaldehyde in temporary housing trailers) is another situation to deal with - but, it is all about perspective,” Brassfield said.
Brassfield called a Monday press conference to address a hold placed on Federal Emergency Management Agency travel trailers which were intended to provide some Miami flood victims with temporary housing.
“When I read reports about New Orleans and see what happened there and is still happening, I count our blessings,” Brassfield said. “We had no deaths. And, if there are toxic levels of formaldehyde in these FEMA trailers, thank goodness we didn't put any of our people in them.”
Today, Brassfield is waiting for more information and hoping that federally funded testing of the trailers will come soon, but he has had no indications from federal or state officials as to when that may take place. He indicated that the city could consider initiating its own environmental testing, but it may be futile.
“Different agencies have different (acceptable) levels,” Brassfield said. “We don't know how much a test will cost or if the city should do the test. And, we don't know what is an acceptable level.”
The mayor said he has concerns of liability if the city allows anyone to move into a trailer until FEMA adopts a standard.
Stephanie Atkins, a 21-year-old single mother, is attempting to stay positive.
“I was frustrated when I heard about the trailers,” Atkins said. “And, I admit I had a few choice words to say when I read about it the next day in the paper . But, I am OK now, I am just glad that they caught it.”
The Miami resident said she will gladly take the inconvenience in exchange for her children's health.
“I am glad I know this now - before I moved my kids into one of those trailers.”
Atkins is currently borrowing living space from her grandparents and looking for alternative housing. She previously lived in a three-bedroom, income-based home where she said she was “completely happy.”
“I didn't have the greatest house in the world and I may not have had the best furniture … but, it was my home,” Atkins said. “I loved it.”
Earlier this month, the Neosho River, rising nearly 15 feet above flood stage, inundated her house with water.
The young mother of three, all under the age of 3, was able to save a few of her possessions - most of which is in storage.
“I got my kids' beds out, my appliances and some other things, but not everything,” Atkins said.
On Monday, her living room sofa rested in her van while she continued to look for rental property.
The search is testing her patience.
“For two weeks, I have been looking for a house,” Atkins said. “Everyone is jacking up their rent.”
Atkins said rent has more than doubled as landlords are asking $800 a month for properties that she said are sub-standard.
“I can't afford that,” she said. “I am trying to stay positive. I have to - for my kids. They keep me strong.”