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By Staff Writer: Rick Townsend


January 5, 2007

In late September of 2006, Congress approved a homeland security spending bill that included a provision allowing FEMA to sell or donate the trailers in Hope Arkansas to municipalities, nonprofit groups or American Indian tribes across the country.

Operation Firing For Effect (OFFE) is a non-profit, non-partisan, grassroots veteran’s service organization headquartered in Rochester, New York. Vietnam combat disabled veteran Gene Simes is OFFE National Chairman and Sparkplug for the organization. One of many special projects OFFE has been working on for the past several months involve the 9,778 mobile homes currently deteriorating at an airfield in Hope Arkansas. These brand-new mobile homes were tagged for Hurricane Katrina survivors and are currently owned and under the control of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, (FEMA). But, because of zoning restrictions within the flood plains of New Orleans, nearly 15,000 furnished mobile homes sit surplus in other states.

In early May of last year, Gene Simes wrote two separate letters to President Bush requesting some of these surplus mobile homes be awarded to eligible homeless and low income veterans. Mr. Simes personally submitted the names of two homeless combat disabled veterans for review and consideration for receipt of these homes. In his letters, he wrote that homelessness among former military personnel is at an all time high, and that the surplus housing could be put to good use immediately.


Simes never heard back from President Bush, but was contacted by the Department of Veterans Affairs concerning his letters. “The VA stated that the mobile homes belonged to FEMA and they (the VA) had no control on where they go. The VA also told me that the Department of Veterans Affairs (in spite of promoting programs designed to help homeless veterans) was not included in the disposal of GSA government surplus housing at any level,” Simes told the FBN.


Veterans rights advocate [Name Omitted] if OFFE Public Relations Director. “The FEMA fiasco in Hope has created a very sad situation. From the photos I have seen these units are in bad shape and are falling apart fast. The American tax payers are not very happy about this,” [Name Omitted] stated.


Simes and [Name Omitted] say they have received hundreds of inquires from veterans in need of housing. “As it stands at this moment, after the best units are picked through by dealers and state agencies, the remaining mobile homes will be liquidated through the U.S. General Services Administration and Auction. WWW.GSA.GOV There will be no preference or consideration made for former military personnel,” [Name Omitted] explained. You can view several FEMA mobile homes up for auction at this link   


FEMA will liquidate the mobile homes as prescribed in/by U.S. Code, Title 40, §545 - Procedure for disposal, and §549 - Donation of personal property through state agencies, and §550 Disposal of real property for certain purposes. Here are the links for these Codes.


There is very little doubt that OFFE had a good idea and these housing units could have helped many low income and homeless veterans. But, OFFE’s concept has not gained the needed support from elected officials and civic groups to stimulate any positive action. “The only advice we can offer at this time is visit the GSA Auction site and bid on a mobile home,” Simes concluded.


In a related story, the GSA has announced a new program to help disabled veterans with small businesses. GSA Awards Contract to Service-Disabled, Veteran-Owned Small Businesses.


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