NPR logo A Long, Tough Road Home

A Long, Tough Road Home

Hello from New Orleans,

This city and the Gulf Coast of Mississippi continue their struggle to come back from the effects of Hurricane Katrina. I've spent a couple of weeks here talking to people and touring the devastated communities. While tourist areas of New Orleans are back in business, large neighborhoods from the Lower Ninth Ward and Lakeview, all the way over to East Biloxi, Miss., remain largely deserted. There's a great deal of frustration with the slow pace of recovery.

FEMA trailers have multiplied across the landscape. Some are perched on front lawns of homes, others are in the backyards and then there are the trailer camps; rows and rows of trailers set-up on plots of crushed rock with no vegetation. People have a love/hate relationship with the small metal dwellings. They're glad to have a place to lay their heads near their homes, but the trailers are so small people have to take turns getting dressed in the morning. I've also heard stories of malfunctioning AC systems, trailers leaking during rains and noxious fumes from wallpaper making people sick.

But while many people are back in their communities in trailers, in excess of a 100,000 remain evacuees. A hundred thousand are still living in Houston alone. And the shocking fact is that nearly a year after the storm more than a quarter of a million people are not back in their homes.

The road home has been slow for a number of reasons: The FEMA trailers were slow in coming, insurance companies have been slow to settle, there's a shortage of labor and people are still waiting for federal rebuilding funds. Meanwhile, crime is growing in New Orleans neighborhoods and the heart of the hurricane season is upon us. All of this weighs heavily on people here, many of whom seem at the edge of emotional meltdowns as we talk about their situations. It's going to be a long, tough road home.