Livingston Parish emergency director tells FEMA to 'get off your a--'

Livingston Parish emergency director tells FEMA to 'get off your a--'
Magnolia Estates in Denham Springs (Source: WAFB)
Magnolia Estates in Denham Springs (Source: WAFB)

LIVINGSTON PARISH, LA (WAFB) - Mark Harrell, director of the Livingston Parish Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, is not holding back when it comes to FEMA's response in getting people mobile housing units, or MHUs.

"Quit giving lip service and get off you're a-- and deliver the units," Harrell said. "It's that simple. They have failed us, 100 percent failure in MHUs."

The realities in Livingston Parish include some people living in metal sheds without any insulation. There are still those who are living in tents and because it's gotten cooler now, at least one person has chosen to move back into his flooded trailer and is sleeping on a mattress on the floor with mold everywhere in his trailer.

"That's why I'm challenging FEMA to move in their car, move in a tent until every MHU is delivered and occupied because we all know they'll be there three or four weeks on the lot before they're occupied," Harrell added.

Harrell said some 1,800 people in Livingston Parish requested FEMA units. So far, he said about 900 have been approved. In order to get people out of their cars and tents as soon as possible, Livingston Parish has waived just about everything - there are no permits that are required and no inspections are done after installations.

Monday, November 28, Harrell asked FEMA why the delay.

"I asked the question, 'How many MHUs do we have sitting on the lot in Baton Rouge?' 159. I said, 'How many work orders were issued today?' 16," Harrell explained.

He said FEMA told him its goal was to get 35 units delivered per day. So, why were only 16 delivered the day Harrell called? He called again this week.

"This week, I ask again, 'So, my understanding is there were 217 sitting in Baton Rouge.' So, my question is why are they getting more on their lot in Baton Rouge than they are delivering out? They should have it organized and delivering out as fast as they're coming in," Harrell said.

To prove his point, he sent FEMA a list of 13 specific people who were waiting on a FEMA unit, asking FEMA to fill out the details. Instead, he got a status update back on the 13, some of which said the units were approved in November, but still, those people do not have a unit to this day.

"Do you think that's an answer? That's not an answer. That's a joke," Harrell added.

Harrell said the conference calls are not getting Livingston Parish people anywhere and enough is enough. He wants answers from FEMA as to why there's the delay on getting MHUs to people who need them.

"If they don't start moving MHUs in here and taking care of our people, I will be going to DC and asking for terminations," Harrell explained.

A few hours after our interview with Harrell, Jerry Stover, FEMA's federal coordinating officer, met with Harrell.

What do you say to all those people who are still waiting on getting a unit?

"Well, for those who are still waiting, we very much understand that you want to be in a better temporary housing solution, especially during this holiday season," Stolar said. "We appreciate and admire the patience the local residents have shown and the resilience during this very trying time. Just be patient with us as we work with the state and local officials."

The local officials are not pleased with how you guys are working, though.

"As I said before, recovery is never going to go as fast as everyone wants, but we are doing everything possible in coordination with the state to get these survivor households," Stolar added.

How would you feel if you were living in your car or tent for the past month?

"I wouldn't feel very well at all, but again, we admire the resilience and patience of the people of this state and we're working very hard to get everyone in a more temporary housing solution as fast as we can," Solar explained.

Harrell asks everyone who is still waiting on getting a MHU to please send an email to with your name, address, phone number and FEMA number detailing your case.

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