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Help center stays busy after storm

Brookhaven’s Federal Emergency Management Agency DisasterRecovery Center is still open and assisting residents fromthroughout southwest Mississippi, although the number of peoplemaking claims has shown a significant drop, officials said.

“There has been a decrease in the numbers” in recent weeks, saidChrisita Peterson, manager of the Brookhaven DRC. “We’re not seeingas many as we did before.”

The center, which offers a variety of services, opened Oct. 6 toassist those with damages from Hurricane Katrina. Representativesfrom several agencies have located in the DRC in an attempt toprovide a more streamlined and efficient aid system.

Since its opening, more than 3,000 area residents have visitedthe center to register for assistance, according to FEMA figures.More than 7,300 Lincoln Countians registered with FEMA forassistance, either at the center, online or over the telephone,according to the same statistics.

Peterson encouraged anyone who filed a claim with FEMA to checkin at the DRC to see if further assistance can be provided. Others,who may have sustained damage but have not made a claim, are alsoencouraged to visit the center, she said.

“It’s not too late to get assistance with damages,” Petersonsaid.

As of Nov. 30, the Lincoln County DRC had distributed $3.83million in housing assistance and $1.08 million in other needsassistance to applicants, which also include those staying hereduring the coastal recovery efforts.

One travel trailer has been placed in the county for a residentwith complete or severe home damage.

“We’ve had other requests, but they’re still working through theprocess,” Peterson said.

The center manager said many of the requests made here fortravel trailers will not be reflected in the FEMA numbers forBrookhaven because they are placed on the coast for evacuees. Shecould not estimate how many of those cases had been handled by theBrookhaven DRC.

The center is also accepting applicants from Lawrence and Copiahcounties, where DRCs were closed on Nov. 12. A mobile DRC inFranklin County closed Dec. 1.

Prior to the closures, Lawrence County received the mostassistance in strictly financial terms. The Lawrence County DRCreceived 1,046 visits from 5,339 applicants. Residents there wereprovided $3.33 million in housing assistance, $1.27 million inother needs assistance and six travel trailers were placed in thecounty.

In Copiah County, only 470 visits were made to the center from5,770 registered applicants, but the county received $2.91 millionin housing assistance and $799,449 in other needs assistance. Therehave been no travel trailers placed there.

A traveling DRC in Franklin County did not log visits from amongthe county’s 1,463 applicants and assistance there was much lessthan that provided to its neighbors. Franklin County residentsreceived $788,874 in housing assistance and $204,234 in other needsassistance. However, the need for travel trailers was higher, withthe county receiving nearly 10 to provide temporary housing toresidents.

A DRC in McComb remains open. Pike County sustained the mostdamage in the surrounding area based on the FEMA figures. More than6,500 visits have been to the McComb center from among nearly13,000 applicants.

Sixty-three travel trailers and nearly 10 mobile homes have beenlocated in the county to assist residents and $8.94 million hasbeen provided for housing assistance and $2.71 million for otherneeds.

Peterson said there are no plans to close the Brookhaven andMcComb DRCs in the near future. The two offices will continue toprovide services to southwest Mississippi until there is no moreneed for them, she said.