AFRO Staff Writer
More than a year after Katrina ravaged New Orleans, its surrounding locales and parts of coastal Mississippi, residents remain hard pressed to move on with their lives.
The country's worst hurricane sent more than one million people fleeing from their homes——and in the process, effected the largest migration of Americans since the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, according to a recent National Public Radio (NPR) report. Though many Katrina victims have relocated, they are currently living in rented homes——in stark contrast to the life of homeownership to which they had become accustomed. The report further states that many among the dislocated are households that have at least one child to care for and are sustaining themselves on monthly incomes of less than $500.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said in August that despite an outpouring of billions of dollars in federal funding, as well as support from church and private organizations and teams of volunteers, that many Katrina victims have yet to rebound.
Jobs remain scarce, schools remain closed and places of worship that lost half of their memberships, have little hope of continuing. Katrina's impact also lent itself to destruction that stretched across 90,000 square miles; and it is estimated that some 500,000 people may need mental health assistance to deal with high rates of anxiety, depression and hostility.
"Katrina was a tragedy in itself," Pelosi said during the August news conference in a mold-infested New Orleans neighborhood. "
But it exposed a tragedy of greater proportions. Some people in this region have lost the spirit of their forefathers——the work ethic, the persistence, the determination to overcome adversity."
Reportedly, as of this past fall, about 1,500 evacuees had relocated to Washington, D.C. Baltimore social services personnel however, were uncertain of the numbers that flocked to Charm City. Added to that, there is no national data base for keeping up with Katrina evacuees and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) only maintains a list of addresses for households, rather than individuals, receiving assistance.
"I have no idea about the number of evacuees in Baltimore, as we no longer keep a list. Many who came to the area didn't go to social services for various reasons," said Sue Fitzsimmons, a Baltimore city social services department spokesperson.
As for ongoing efforts at assistance, Fitzsimnons said there's nothing specific she knows of in the Baltimore area aimed at evacuees. While she pointed out that eligible people could still go to social services for help, Fitzsimmons added that the agency has "had people who came to us off and on who meet the criteria for assistance."
Fiztsimmons said the state of Maryland had an earlier effort, where it would essentially "man" the plane loads of evacuees who sought housing. But, said Fitzsimmons, "We never got the plane or bus loads of people we were expecting."
A report distributed a few months ago, titled, "A Continuing Storm," tracked the whereabouts of Katrina victims. Conducted by the Appleseed Foundation, a non profit pro bon legal network with chapters across the country, the report found that most of the 700,000 or so evacuees were doing well in host cities that include Atlanta, Birmingham, Ala., Houston and San Antonio, Tx., and Baton Rouge, La. The report further states that about 40 percent of evacuees had returned to their homes in New Orleans.
The American Red Cross says it continues to help Katrina victims through its Hurricane Recovery Program (HRP) by providing emotional support, help finding vital information and meeting their ongoing needs. According to the agency, more than 90 percent of the resources donated through publicly administered proceeds for victims of both hurricanes Katrina and Rita were dispersed directly following the storms for basic needs that included food, clothing and shelter. The remaining 10 percent funding according to the Red Cross, continues to provide services through the HRP.