Gulf Coast Evacuees Find Limited Success in Tennessee
RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:
NPR's Audie Cornish talked to evacuees in Nashville to find out why.
AUDIE CORNISH: Since September, more than 200 Gulf Coast evacuees have been in and out of the Middle Tennessee Career Center and office of Pamela Bradley Smith.
PAMELA BRADLEY SMITH: Well, I have a contact for you from Project Paycheck.
JUDY TRUVEA: Oh, that's good!
CORNISH: The Center provides career counseling, resume seminars and many job fairs, and for former New Orleans resident and 20-year hospital administrator Judy Truvea the last place she expected to be more than six months after the storm.
TRUVEA: If I thought I would have had a job, you know, like, even as a receptionist in medical records. That's what I was trying to get. A file clerk. A simple position. I'm not applying for no management position. I just want a job.
CORNISH: Now in her early 50's, Truvea says employers are rejecting her as over-qualified for entry-level positions and are scared off by her former salary. At times, she says, it feels like her evacuee status isn't evoking much goodwill.
TRUVEA: Now, I figure if I chose to relocate and apply for work, well, that's a different situation. Maybe they would have handled it different. But like, due to the circumstances, it should be even easier for me to find employment, because I didn't choose to relocate here. I was forced to.
CORNISH: They often don't have the social networks to tap into their new cities. And over the last three months, Smith says many employers are more likely to feel that hurricane evacuees need to move on.
BRADLEY SMITH: Some of the concerns that I've heard have simply go back to, well, are individuals ready to work? Are there other things that would get in the way of them being able to accept and hold down employment?
CORNISH: And Smith says employers raise concerns about everything from whether job applicants have consistent childcare and transportation to whether or not they're still traveling back and forth to the Gulf Coast. And these are issues that are still facing nearly all of Smith's clients, who've run the gamut from former attorneys and college professors to construction and restaurant workers, like Sam Caruso(ph).
SAM CARUSO: I worked at quite a few different restaurants in New Orleans. And there's not nearly, the service industry, not nearly nothing like it is in New Orleans.
CORNISH: Clients like Caruso, who worked in popular New Orleans industries like tourism, or even oil production, are having to make big adjustments, says Smith. For instance, once a bartender, Caruso's now making much less money as a sales clerk at an electronics store. In the meantime, he's had to send his fiancÃÂ©e and two children back to Louisiana to stay with relatives, and he's already in debt to his landlord.
CARUSO: I mean it's almost like it's, I feel more overwhelmed. There's just so many other things, you know, as time goes on, there's more things that you have to do. And I mean, I'll tell you what, it's like something new pops up every day.
CORNISH: Audie Cornish, NPR News, Nashville.
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