PUNTA GORDA, Fla. -- As people left homeless by Hurricane Charley began their second week living in makeshift shelters, federal officials pledged yesterday that more substantial temporary housing was on the way.
Still, it was unclear exactly how much help would be available for storm victims as officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency gave conflicting information.
The number of homeless is not known, although the Red Cross in recent days has housed about 1,100 people in the area that stretches from southwestern Florida to near Orlando. Thousands of other people are living in damaged homes or with friends or family members.
For many displaced residents, yesterday was moving day, as shelters that had been open in schools were shut down to prepare for the beginning of classes next Monday.
FEMA officials said the agency will have about 8,000 travel trailers and mobile homes available to house people with no other options. An additional 1,500 apartments and homes might be available for rentals to storm victims, the agency estimates.
About 400 trailers have been brought to the disaster zone and an additional 500 are on their way, said Ken Burris, the agency's southeast regional director. "We are housing people as we speak," Burris said.
But only about 20 to 25 people actually have taken up residence in FEMA trailers, and confusion reigned in the agency's public information effort.
Local emergency management officials began a news conference yesterday by telling people not to call FEMA to get tarps to cover damaged roofs because no tarps were available.
Later, Burris denied there was a shortfall and urged people to call.
"We don't want people to stop calling FEMA if they have a need," Burris said.
Within its own ranks, FEMA also differed yesterday on whether a trailer park for storm refugees was up and running. FEMA spokesman Dick Gifford told reporters that a park was operating at an undisclosed location with 200 to 300 trailers already there.
But later Burris said there was no such place, only that FEMA had found a trailer park in Charlotte County that was partially built and needed utilities before trailers could be set up. It would be at least a month before anyone could live there, he said.
FEMA has doled out nearly $20 million in housing assistance to the 41,200 families who have sought aid, the agency said.