FEMA's first option for housing the thousands of displaced is to find them existing rental housing within a 55-mile radius of Joplin, because there isn't much housing left in the city of nearly 50,000 residents that was left badly damaged by the May 22 tornado, spokeswoman Susie Stonner told The Associated Press. Nearly a third of the city was damaged by the violent storm.
Stonner said that despite the distance, putting people in permanent housing is preferable to trailers - especially in an area prone to tornadoes and severe weather.
"Wouldn't you prefer to be in a stable building over a mobile home?" she asked. Stonner also noted that getting things like water, sewer lines and developing pads for trailers would take substantial time.
Temporary housing will be made available for up to 18 months. Some people along the Gulf Coast still live in FEMA trailers nearly six years after Hurricane Katrina.
Another FEMA spokesman, Bob Josephson, said the agency will consider bringing trailers to Joplin if enough existing housing isn't available. He said every effort will be made to find existing rental units closest to Joplin and that many residents may simply choose to find their own housing options.
People who lived in the 8,000 structures smashed in the storm have scattered to the homes of friends and relatives or camped out in emergency shelters in the city. Some may leave town- New Orleans lost nearly one-third of its population after Katrina.
While many of the survivors had insurance, it could be months, if not years, before they can rebuild. Removing the millions of tons of debris and remaking the city's destroyed infrastructure will likely take well into the summer if not longer.
Rebuilding homes can't start until that work is finished. For low-income residents, the Housing Authority of Joplin provides some housing. But it was not known how many, if any, of the homeless it can accommodate.
Recent history suggests many people won't be able to wait for the answers to emerge or for the rebuilding to be completed. The current population could drop substantially.
If you would like to donate to the relief efforts to help the victims of the massive tornadoes, including the ones that struck Joplin, Missouri, click here.
The Forum, a non-profit spiritual and arts community organization, will be collecting much-needed aid and goods and delivering items to tornado victims in Joplin, Missouri. Volunteers from The Forum will travel to Joplin to assist the Joplin school district in cleaning and rebuilding their schools and restoring the music programs in the community. Items needed include: diapers, baby food, laundry detergent, sun screen, hand cleaner, toothpaste, soap shampoo, flashlights, batteries - or anything you think can be beneficial to the community hard-hit by the recent tornados. The group is promising 100 percent matching funds for cash donations. Checks should be written to: Founders Forum and be mailed to: Founders Center, 3281 W. 6th St., Los Angeles, 90020.
City News Service contributed to this report.