Florida's foreclosed homes might be use as storm shelters

The state's top disaster-management official has a use for all those foreclosed homes in Florida: temporary hurricane housing.

"This option didn't exist two or three years ago before the real-estate market crashed," said Ruben Almaguer, interim director of Florida's emergency management division.

"We can't not look at something staring us directly in the face. It's a solution to a potential problem." Almaguer asked the Federal Emergency Management Agency to consider the proposal this week during a mock-disaster drill that spotted vulnerabilities in the state's emergency response plans.

The drill's scenario: a Category 4 storm nearly bankrupts the state, displaces one million residents, destroys homes and schools, and even frees zoo monkeys that terrorize Floridians.

During the weeklong exercise, Almaguer said, it didn't take long for the 250 state, federal and local officials to figure out that neither Florida nor FEMA has enough shelter space to house the newly homeless.

Florida has about 250,000 homes in the process of foreclosure and up to 300,000 unsold homes on the market.

Using the foreclosed homes is just another example of utilizing whatever shelter is available, said Almaguer. Six years ago, he noted, the notion of using cruise ships as shelter space seemed out of the question but now it's a recognized option.

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