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FEMA trailers offer shelter, hope in Fla.

Storm victims move into park

VENICE, Fla. -- In a cramped travel trailer, Gail Martin finally got to cook a meal for her son for the first time since Hurricane Charley chased them from their home almost two weeks ago. It was grilled cheese sandwiches on a propane stove.

After 10 days in a Red Cross shelter, she and her 24-year-old disabled son moved into one of 360 campers that the Federal Emergency Management Agency is bringing to a vacant lakefront RV park here to house Charley survivors until they can get back on their feet.

Martin, 57, sees it as the next step toward getting their lives back to normal, even though their house is damaged and still without power.

''You need to get out of the shelter environment to get back to that let's-get-going mode," she said as Michael paged through a school book and watched MTV on the set they brought from home. ''This morning I woke up here and said, 'I think I can do this.' . . . You've got to get out of the victim-survivor mode."

The trailers are the kind that are pulled behind cars and trucks. They sleep anywhere from one to three people and have all the comforts of home, just smaller. Cable TV is even available at the RV park, and all of the campers have air conditioning.

FEMA has been moving families all week into the park, where they will live for free for as long as 18 months.

FEMA deputy federal coordinating officer Justo Hernandez said the agency is buying 4,000 mobile homes and 4,300 travel trailers to provide temporary housing to storm victims throughout the affected areas.

The goal is to get people out of the Red Cross shelters, whose population dipped below 1,000 this week for the first time.

The Red Cross estimated that Hurricane Charley destroyed more than 12,000 homes and left 19,000 others uninhabitable without major repairs.

''We're going to work with each and every one individually," Hernandez said. ''Nobody will go out without a home, nobody will go out without a roof."

For Gina Elian, it was nice to get out of the shelter, relax in her own air-conditioned space and put a few of her own groceries in the fridge.

''You can't put a price on privacy, no matter how small it is," said Elian, 35. ''It's nice. Our government is wonderful."

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