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FEMA leaves housing unit against tree

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CENTRAL- The mayor of Central is frustrated with FEMA and said Monday, help isn't coming fast enough for flood victims. 

"It's like the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing, and it's frustrating to the citizens," Mayor Junior Shelton said.

According to Shelton, hundreds of people are waiting on mobile housing units - or MHU's - from FEMA.  He believes layers of red tape is slowing the pace of recovery. 

The Kinchen family is one of those families Shelton is talking about. They have been waiting on an MHU since September 14. It finally arrived this weekend, but the dysfunctional way it was delivered left them in shock.

"They marked it with these orange flags and put it where it was supposed to go, and when he did, the door wouldn't open, because it was flush up against a tree," Penny Kinchen said.

After getting the mayor involved, inspectors were back out Monday morning. They moved it away from the tree, but it remains unhooked and unlivable.  The Kinchens' raised farm house off Blackwater Road has been around since the 1920's. It took on nearly four feet of water in August.  The house is gutted and the process to to get the family back together is beginning.

"My husband and our kids are living with his brother, so we're completely separated and displaced," Kinchen said. "It has been now for 8 weeks and it's been a big challenge."

Shelton is at his wits' end. Last month, he testified before Congress at a FEMA oversight committee. He discussed the challenges his community faces. But since he made the trip to Washington, Shelton said the horror stories have gotten worse.

"I certainly want to help my citizens, but the idea that the system is so broken that I have to get involved and contact people higher up in FEMA to get the answers, that can so easily be given by regular folks in FEMA the folks they are told to see," Shelton said. "The 1-800 help number... help is not the right word for that line."

Right now, Shelton said 232 trailers are installed and occupied in East Baton Rouge Parish. About 5,000 people are approved to get them. As hundreds of people still need help in this community, Shelton is frustrated that people still aren't in them.

"There have been a lot of MHU's approved for folks, but they aren't staged," Shelton said. "They aren't in the parish, so it takes time for that to happen, but in the meantime, just communicating with the citizens is all we want FEMA to do. Give them deadlines and time frames that they can work with so things can move smoother."

That's the case with the Kinchens.

"It has been a nightmare," Penny Kinchen said.

FEMA has not commented on this story. 

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