University of Idaho College of Law Public Interest Law Group

Track II Update – Biloxi Vietnamese Population Helped by MCJ and Boat People

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Anna and Erika outside a MEMA cottage

Imagine navigating a maze of bureaucracy in the aftermath of a storm. Your house is destroyed, gas and food prices are through the roof. What federal and state grants are available to you? How do you know if you are eligible?


Now imagine trying to navigate this bureaucratic maze in a foreign language. Beyond hello and goodbye, you have almost no English skills whatsoever.

This is exactly what many Vietnamese immigrants are going through right now in Biloxi, MS. There are about 4,500 Vietnamese living in Biloxi right now. Biloxi’s total population is around 50,000, pre-Katrina.

Today I spoke with a Vietnamese man who was living in a mobile home before the storm. His home and everything he owned was destroyed, including all of his tools for work.


Thankfully, there is an organization that can help bridge the information gap. Boat People SOS “Meeting Urgent Needs Today, Empowering Vietnamese Communities for Tomorrow.”


With help from Boat People, the Vietnamese man and I were able to have a conversation and help his situation. We had a three way call – I would ask a question, the interpreter would relay the question to the man, and then the answer back to me. It was surprisingly efficient.

The Vietnamese man is trying to get a grant from MDA – Mississippi Development Authority Homeowner’s Grant Program and has not heard anything from them in over a year. He has been living in a FEMA trailer since the storm.





Update 3/13 11:00 AM

Unfortunately the man is unqualified for a MDA grant because he did not own the land his mobile home was on. MDA never contacted the man to tell him his application was (or will be) rejected.

The man still has two options. He can apply for FEMA rental assistance and move into an apartment with some cash assistance from FEMA. The other option is to get a MEMA Cottage and place it on the property where his FEMA trailer is currently.


Written by jrdo410

March 12, 2008 at 6:58 pm

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