Many Katrina Evacuees Still Housed in Tents, Trailers
ALEX CHADWICK, host:
It's seven weeks since Hurricane Katrina displaced hundreds of thousands of people from New Orleans and along southern Louisiana's coast and in Mississippi. Many of these people still find themselves living with family members and in some cases with strangers. In Lafayette, Louisiana, NPR's Jason DeRose visited with both hosts and guests who found the situation difficult.
(Soundbite of cell phone ringing)
Ms. ANN WAKEFIELD(ph): I'm moving. And, of course, my phone's going off. Thank you so much.
(Soundbite of cell phone ringing)
Ms. JACKIE LYLE: You're welcome.
Ms. WAKEFIELD: Thank you...
JASON DeROSE reporting:
On this day, the last of Jackie Lyle's house guests is moving out. Ann Wakefield and her 82-year-old mother are two of 10 guests who came to stay with Jackie and her husband shortly after Katrina. Wakefield says even though her New Orleans home wasn't badly damaged, just living with others has been difficult.
Ms. WAKEFIELD: I kept on asking Jackie, `Are you sure? Are you sure you want this many people? I mean, don't you want your space?' I'm an introvert. I like my own space.
DeROSE: But Wakefield grew used to the constant commotion and even found the three birthday parties comforting.
Ms. WAKEFIELD: It seemed to be this time of celebration, which was very therapeutic for me because I was confronted constantly with the dark side of life. And so it was so wonderful to come home to this happy household, a spontaneous household where you never knew who was going to show up for dinner or even what we were going to have for dinner, but we knew it was going to happen.
DeROSE: Hosts Jackie Lyle and her husband, Conrad Comeaux, thought the fall would be quiet. Their three children are finally all off at college this year, but their home became a frantic boarding house instead. To cope, Jackie bought herself another television so she could escape from the news and into "Law & Order" reruns, but it was still a lot to handle.
Ms. LYLE: I did go to my room a few times and cry. And frequently, it also happened just in traffic; not over the traffic, but because I would allow myself to look down the road seven months and it was just a little overwhelming for me.
DeROSE: Jackie and her husband discovered they had other ways to cope with the 10 guests and three dogs sharing their home.
Ms. LYLE: We've had a lot of wine, I have to admit. We didn't have any prescription drugs that I can think of, but we did go through a lot of wine to the extent that I was a little embarrassed at what was being put out by the street.
Ms. TANYA FACHE(ph): I'm sorry, ...(unintelligible) puppies, no. Out! Out! These are refugees, too. Dang dogs.
DeROSE: Just north of Lafayette, Tanya Fache is playing host to her brother and sister's families and pets from New Orleans on her enormous plantation. Despite a house with more than 5,000 square feet set on several hundred acres, Fache says these living arrangements are stressful, especially even the whole sibling situation. Tanya says one source of frustration is that her baby brother Jarrod Bilanco(ph), a medical doctor and father of two, keeps bringing junk food into the house and feeding it to her three young children.
Ms. FACHE: I really don't remember what happened, but he said something to me and I told him he was two minutes from moving into the Cajun Dome, because I was going to kick him out.
DeROSE: Still, Jarrod said he's learning to get by without his Fruity Pebbles. However...
Dr. JARROD BILANCO: I have a little box of Cheez-Its that I hit when I need a little bit of food.
DeROSE: Ashila Lambert(ph), Jarrod and Tanya's sister, also moved in after the storm. She's a single mother of one and a prosecutor with the New Orleans district attorney's office. Ashila says her parenting style is proving to be a challenge to her sister Tanya.
Ms. ASHILA LAMBERT: My sister is very organized and she's very structured, and I think I just drive her crazy because I'm not. I'm just free-spirited and like, `OK, it's my night to bathe the kids. Everybody just go jump in the npool. You're clean enough. The chlorine will clean you. Go put on your pajamas.'
DeROSE: As Ashila says this, her sister Tanya just rolls her eyes and gets the kids started on their homework.
(Soundbite of people talking)
DeROSE: Their brother Jarrod says both his sisters need to just relax. That's what he's had to learn to do these past seven weeks.
Dr. BILANCO: If I can continue to remind myself that I'm not in control of everything and that I can't control everything, it'll be a relief of stress in my life because I'm kind of a control freak. That's been one little source of enlightenment.
DeROSE: Jarrod and his two sisters and their families will be living together at least through Christmas, but the New Orleanians say they've come to love their sister city so much and the hospitality it's shown, they may choose to make Lafayette their new permanent home. They just want separate houses. Jason DeRose, NPR News.
CHADWICK: I'm Alex Chadwick. Stay with us on DAY TO DAY from NPR News.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.