New Orleans Offers Jobs, But No Housing
LIANE HANSEN, Host:
Melanie Peeples reports from New Orleans.
MELANIE PEEPLES: Unidentified Man: How are you doing? (Unintelligible).
PEEPLES: On the floor wrapped up in blankets is Umberto Alvarado(ph), who came here from Texas because he'd heard there was money to be made rebuilding New Orleans.
UMBERTO ALVARADO: I was supposed to come here and do better. But looks like...
PEEPLES: He looks around at the charred walls and burnt faces of saints.
ALVARADO: (Spanish spoken).
PEEPLES: Across town, Wilbur Smith(ph) is getting ready to settle in to another night spent under an overpass.
WILBUR SMITH: Well, I want to get me a place, but I don't have enough money to get a deposit and first month rent.
PEEPLES: Emergency shelters are also a problem. As Unity social worker Seamus Roan(ph) points out, what few have reopened don't offer as many beds as they used to.
SEAMUS ROAN: So the resources for a homeless individual probably at best half of what they were before, and yet there's twice as many homeless people today as there were.
PEEPLES: New Orleans has always had a high poverty rate, but now, Roan says, is not the time to be poor in New Orleans.
ROAN: You know, I think everyone should have the right to come back, and I'm glad that people are coming back. The city won't come back without the people. But I try to caution people that a lot of the services that helped keep people from being homeless beforehand aren't all up and running. And if you're a person who may have been very close to homelessness beforehand, you're very likely to end up homeless now.
PEEPLES: Delilah Howard(ph) never thought she'd be homeless. Two months ago, she came back to town and reclaimed her old janitorial job, but she could not reclaim her old apartment.
DELILAH HOWARD: Oh, I will pay $450 for a two-bedroom. Now, that same apartment want $800 for a two-bedroom. I can't afford that.
PEEPLES: They're trying to find a place together and have a voucher from FEMA to pay first month's rent and a deposit. But the classifieds are filled with ads that say, no voucher. Howard misses Texas where she and her kids stayed after Katrina.
HOWARD: They furnished the house; they were so good to us. I mean, it was wonderful out there.
PEEPLES: But as a single mom with sickle cell anemia, Delilah needs to be near her extended family so they can help take care of her kids when she's in the hospital. Besides, she reminds her big sister, Renee(ph), it's terrible to be homesick for New Orleans.
HOWARD: It's home. It's home.
HOWARD: It's home. I mean, it's - you can't describe it. But, I mean, it is home. And this is a really great place to live. It really is. I mean...
RENEE: No, it used to be a great place to live.
HOWARD: Well, yeah.
RENEE: It used to be a great place to live. But not now.
PEEPLES: For NPR News, I'm Melanie Peeples in New Orleans.
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HANSEN: You're listening to WEEKEND EDITION from NPR NEWS.
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