Homeless Joplin Residents Settle Where They Can

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A week after the tornado that leveled Joplin, Mo., some 20,000 homeless residents now need a place to live.

The tornado flattened 30 percent of the town and destroyed an estimated 8,000 buildings. Now, most of those affected are forced to live with friends and family, or in hotels and shelters.

Joplin resident Holly Flemming was fortunate to have family nearby. She and 10 of her children and grandchildren went to her mother's house, as she competed with other bidders on a few highly prized rentals.

"I said, 'I'll pay you a year in advance,'" Flemming recalled, referring to an offer she'd put in for a place to stay.

Rebuilding Joplin will take years, but many residents need a roof over their heads now. One Joplin real estate office has been inundated by desperate callers.

"They were desperate [saying], 'We have to have this house. We have to,'" real estate agent Vicki Christensen said. "There's no where else to go."

Local hotels are fully booked, but some made extraordinary offers to the tornado survivors.

"We've probably turned away, between phone calls and people walking through the door, at least 100 people a day," hotel worker Tanya Bogenrief said.  "We are willing to open up our homes to anybody that might need a place."

The situation is so bad the Federal Emergency Management Agency is considering putting residents in housing more than 50 miles away.

"This in my experience is the most intensely devastating disaster that I've ever seen," said Libby Turner, FEMA coordinator for Missouri.

FEMA officials will consider bringing in trailers like those used after Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans if enough homes aren't available.

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