Six Months Later, Some Katrina Victims Still Wait For FEMA
Posted February 23, 2006
SLIDELL, La. — They come. And they go.
Every day -- as many as three times a day -- trains carrying trailers from the Federal Emergency Management Agency travel through
, on their way to New Orleans.
But they don't stop in Slidell.
"We've sort of termed ourselves the 'Forgotten City,'" said Slidell Mayor Ben Morris. "All anyone hears about on local TV or national TV is the city of New Orleans."
Although life seems to be cruising along like normal for some in Slidell, for others, Hurricane Katrina might as well have been yesterday.
About 10,000 homes were damaged; about 4,000 were destroyed by the storm surge. And almost six months later, many people are still desperately waiting for their FEMA trailers.
"I still haven't gotten a trailer -- haven't got the first penny from FEMA," said Viney Bertaut, who has been living in one room of a gutted and condemned house since October. "I've received nothing."
Bertaut said she can't get any answers from FEMA about when she might get a trailer.
"I'm done with FEMA," Bertaut said. "I mean as far as thinking they're going to give me anything or do anything for me -- no they're not."
"I hate stupid bureaucracy that makes absolutely no sense," said Morris. "The guiding legislation for FEMA is ridiculous."
Morris said he didn't wait for the federal government's help.
Slidell residents cleared 143 miles of impassable roads, picked up about 17,000 truckloads of debris and got utilities back online.
But the town has already spent its annual $37 million budget. If the federal government doesn't help soon, Morris said they could have the keys to his city.
Morris said his immediate concern is the 300 miles of bayous in Slidell that are filled with debris. A heavy rainfall will cause the waterways to flood the city again. To clean them, he estimates it will take $5 million to $6 million -- money he does not have.
"The cost is incredible, and I don't have the money," Morris said. "No city has the money to bring all of this back."
For most families, going back to Slidell means one day, sometimes one hour or even one minute at a time.
Mary and Lloyd Toucheque are living in a friend's FEMA trailer while they wait for their own.
"You just got to keep your spirits up," said Lloyd Toucheque. "Things are getting better, they're getting better every day. You've just got to have a lot of patience and be thankful for what you have today."
Because for people in Slidell, today is all they have.
Editor's Note: As of Feb. 21, FEMA said, it has paid out nearly $500 million in individual and public assistance monies in the Slidell, La., area.
The agency also said that there are more than 7,000 occupied FEMA trailers there, and it has also contacted hurricane victims featured in the story and is actively working to find them housing.