Residents Still Searching for Permanent Housing

January 8, 2007 - Posted at 6:29 p.m. CST

JONESBORO, AR -- "It is very hard because everything is gone and everybody is trying to rebuild and what houses they are trying to rebuild aren't even done yet," said Caruthersville resident Christena Gibson.

Since April 2nd's devastating tornado, housing in Caruthersville has been a problem and its forcing residents into some tough decisions.  Residents who lived in rental property are particularly hard hit by the housing dilemma.

Following the disaster declaration in Caruthersville, FEMA set up temporary housing in a neighborhood called "Court 1635" for 68 Pemiscot County families. Those families are on an 18 month lease that is scheduled to expire in early October.  According to FEMA, 46 families remain housed there looking for lodging anywhere they can find.

"I have three kids and for me to move out of town, and me working here, having to pay for a babysitter and gas would just be awful," said Gibson.

Despite living in Caruthersville her whole life, Gibson is now considering that option.

"Moving to Blytheville or Dyersburg, one of the two because there is nothing here," said Gibson.

While most homeowners are rebuilding, but rental properties are a different story.

"Central Gardens, across for the middle school, they aren't even going to open those back up. They are going to tear them down and I don't know what they are going to build and that housed a lot of people," said Gibson.

A number of rental properties have set relatively untouched since the F4 tornado touched down and with FEMA set to pull their mobile homes out of Caruthersville in September, residents are unsure where they will go next.

"Everybody will probably have to move out of Caruthersville because I don't think the houses will be done by then," said Gibson.

Gibson isn't the only resident looking to relocate. In fact, some already have moved. While no official population numbers are available the city believes the school districts enrollment offers a direct correlation to this decrease.

"Our school population from this time last year is about 50 less students," said Caruthersville mayor Diane Sayre.

With the current lack of rental properties and no solution on the horizon, the downward population swing could continue.

"We still probably have got another four to five years before we get Caruthersville like it was and it will never be the same," said Sayre.

While a number of long time residents are moving away, the mayor does believe some will eventually return when they have something to return to.