Honeysuckle Lane Resident Awaits Word on Home

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Robert Siegel continues his conversations with residents of one small street in New Orleans East. He chats with Keia Wyre, who lives at 37 Honeysuckle Lane. She's staying with her mother in Hampton, Va., while she tries to find out what insurance and FEMA will pay her for her water-damaged home.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

From a distance, the damage from Hurricane Katrina appears to be one big problem; in fact, the problems are hundreds of thousands of little headaches and heartaches. As residents of New Orleans East put their lives back in order, the experience has involved a lot of waiting, a lot of worrying and a lot of weeping. We've been monitoring the progress of one small street in that part of the city. Honeysuckle Lane has a couple of dozen houses. The structures are mostly intact; water flooded the area but didn't destroy homes. Keia Wyre(ph) owns the home at 27 Honeysuckle Lane. She's lived there with her mother. Since August, they've lived in a hotel room in Hampton, Virginia. And she's lucky. Her employer, Cox Communications, found her a job there immediately. So far, she says, she hasn't been back to her New Orleans East home.

Ms. KEIA WYRE (Honeysuckle Lane Resident): My dad actually went there because he didn't come all the way to Virginia; he actually stopped off with his family in Mississippi. So he was able to go back and kind of see what was going on from a distance. He says it looks bad, but it could be OK. He's not really sure 'cause he wasn't able to get close enough. We're also waiting on permission from the insurance adjusters because we were one of the fortunate people to have homeowners insurance, and we're waiting to get authorization from them also to be released back into the city. But right now we're just waiting.

SIEGEL: Did you also have flood insurance?

Ms. WYRE: Yes. We had disaster and flood insurance.

SIEGEL: So you feel that you'll be pretty well covered in terms of whatever material loss you've sustained here or not?

Ms. WYRE: The purpose for purchasing the insurance was to have that secure feeling. But when we're speaking with the adjusters, when we're communicating with them backwards and forth, I don't feel that security, no, because it seems like there's red tape here, there's red tape there. It's like thank God you have insurance, but now you have to fight to get what you've been paying for all this time.

SIEGEL: Well, what kind of red tape have you encountered?

Ms. WYRE: More or less, they're saying--OK, FEMA, the federal government, has reported that New Orleans is just a state of catastrophe, emergency, period. Everything there is considered to be not inhabitable right now. The insurance adjusters are saying that they want to go out there and see, so we have to wait for them to go out there and see. So in the time that we're waiting for them to go out and see, you know, we're waiting--it's a waiting process--when we could be re-establishing housing or buying another house or trying to just get ourselves set up all over again.

SIEGEL: Have you been in communication with an adjuster or with somebody from the agency, from the insurance company?

Ms. WYRE: Yeah, one in particular, but it's very periodic. It's more or less like we're calling him, leaving him messages. And every once in a while, he'll just call us back letting us know that they're still working on it, and that's it, just working on it. It's nothing saying, `OK, this is done, this is done and this is your next step. This is your next course of action.' We're the people asking all of the questions, making all of the suggestions. But like my mom says, this is the first time that they've ever had to deal with something like this, so maybe they're just going through a blueprint themselves; they're trying to create it as we go along.

But it's kind of frustrating because with FEMA--because my mother has a job, because I have a job, you know, nice, ordinary, Fortune 500 jobs, they're not really giving us assistance because it's like, `OK, you guys had a job. You were working. You weren't one of those people that we considered in the poverty level. You're considered middle class, so you'll wait.'

SIEGEL: Mm-hmm.

Ms. WYRE: FEMA doesn't want to pay us until the insurance adjusters pay out. And the insurance adjusters aren't paying out until they get clearance to go into the city.

SIEGEL: So obviously, you wouldn't want to be poor, but in this odd case, you would be getting prompter treatment, you're saying, if you were.

Ms. WYRE: Right. Exactly.

SIEGEL: Is it clear to you--is it absolutely clear to you that you and your mother, your sister, you're all going back to New Orleans?

Ms. WYRE: I don't know. I honestly don't know at this particular point. I am what they call a New Orleans die-hard; I love my city. I have never had--some people said that they had racial issues while they were there, as far as racial profiling and stereotyping. I never had that problem, neither growing up nor in the present culture. I haven't had any problems as far as poverty was concerned because my mother always taught me, `If you want it, you go out there and you work for it and you get it.'

I want to go back home because--here in this city and in this state, they have embraced us so well, and they've treated us so wonderfully. I can never have a negative thing to say about Virginia. But it's not home. I want to go home, and I want to help to rebuild the city. I want to rebuild my own home.

SIEGEL: Well, thank you very much for talking with us about it. Good to hear from you.

Ms. WYRE: Bye-bye.

SIEGEL: Keia Wyre of 37 Honeysuckle Lane, New Orleans East. She's now living in Hampton, Virginia. We're following the fortunes of the people on her street since Hurricane Katrina.

MELISSA BLOCK (Host): You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

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