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Starting over - Atlanta's Katrina evacuees find it takes more than FEMA money to build a new life
Creative Loafing (Atlanta) ^ | 2/15/06 | COLEY WARD

Posted on 02/17/2006 5:11:19 PM PST by madprof98

On Feb. 13, the federal government stopped paying hotel bills for roughly 12,000 families nationwide who lost their homes to damage caused by hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Once as high as 85,000, the number of hotel rooms being paid for by FEMA is down to 8,000. By March 6, FEMA says the hotel subsidies will be completely cut off.

At the Country Hearth Inn & Suites near Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, people carted their belongings through the lobby and into the cars of family members and friends. Some were headed to new FEMA-subsidized apartments or trailers. But a few lagged behind, feverishly calling FEMA to plead for an extension on their government-funded hotel stay. The police arrived to help deal with one man who threatened the hotel manager.

Many of the displaced people interviewed for this story expressed disappointment at what they deemed insufficient government assistance. Some were scared. Others were frustrated at their inability to find a job or a place to live.

The following are stories of three women staying in two local hotels who lost their homes in New Orleans and are trying to start new lives in Atlanta. They are different people with different needs, but all are searching for the answer to the same question: What's next?

Best friends, parting ways

Kereston Williams and Alicia Reed were roommates in a house in the now decimated Chalmette neighborhood in New Orleans. They were split up after Katrina struck, but reunited in Atlanta in November.

"I hadn't seen her since August," Williams says. "And then I finally found her number through people, and as soon as I found her, I came the next day."

Now the girls are getting ready to part again.

Reed, a 22-year-old studying to become a medical assistant, is attempting to stay in Atlanta -- a city of which she's seen little, despite having lived in the metro area for nearly five months. She hopes that changes once she finalizes plans to move into a one-bedroom apartment, subsidized by FEMA, with her 7-year-old son.

Williams, 18, is reluctantly preparing to move to Dallas to live with her family. She says she had no luck convincing FEMA to give her money to help get an apartment in Atlanta, and she has been unable to find a job. After inquiring about employment at all of the retailers and restaurants within walking distance of the Decatur hotel she's called home, Williams was told there would be nothing available until after the holidays.

Once the holidays ended, Williams says the situation didn't improve.

On a Thursday afternoon, seated at a table in the lobby of the Decatur Country Hearth Inn & Suites, Reed, who has short, frosted hair and gold caps on her bottom teeth, and Williams, who looks as if she could be Reed's younger sister, were able to find some solace in the idea that they would reunite in New Orleans for Mardi Gras.

"A lot of people are going to go back and find people," Williams says.

"No other city can celebrate Mardi Gras like we do," says Reed, "so I think it's going to be more like a homecoming, like a family reunion."

Still, the two women insist they can never live in New Orleans again.

Williams says that, for her, the time that she spent living with other evacuees at the Superdome forever tainted the city she used to love.

"The toilet was all flooding and you got slippers on, and if you drop your clothes on the floor, then you might as well leave them on the floor because the floor is just that nasty," Williams says. "That's just something that I don't want to go through again. I don't even want to be around water."

"The whole summer I was trying to teach her how to swim," Reed chimes in.

"Seriously," Williams insists, "I am through with water."

Alone and scared

Sonja Staves, a short, soft-spoken woman, says that after camping out for months at Country Hearth Inn & Suites in College Park, she received $6,800 from FEMA toward a new apartment. And that's exactly what she got. She found a one-bedroom unit at 900 Connally St., near Turner Field. She bought furniture. She moved in. And she quickly moved out.

"I'm not from here, so I didn't know the area," Staves says. "And it was a bad area. They broke into somebody's house right across from me and right next to me in broad daylight, so I was fearful for my life."

A FEMA spokesman says that the agency does have a search tool on its website that helps displaced people in new cities find available housing. But there is no way for a person in a new city to tell which areas are safer than others. It's hard to know from the classifieds' jumble of neighborhood names -- Adair Park vs. Ansley Park, College Park vs. Collier Hills, East Point vs. East Atlanta, West End vs. west side -- what each neighborhood might be like.

Though Staves paid her rent through the first three months, she stayed only a few weeks. After the burglaries, she put her new furniture into storage and moved back into the College Park hotel.

"I'm used to my own house," Staves says. "It's hard. And here, I called FEMA, and FEMA told me that they can't extend my hotel because I had a contract with an apartment, and it's not right."

Now Staves, who works for a cruise ship company and has been receiving worker's comp after pinching a nerve in her foot, doesn't know what to do. She says her hotel room is paid through March 16. After that, she doesn't know where she will go.

Staves says one of the hardest parts about living at the hotel is that she feels disconnected from the outside world. Country Hearth Inn & Suites is within walking distance of just two restaurants: Joe's and Ruby Tuesday's. There is a free shuttle that offers transportation to Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport and back. And that's about it.

"I've been here three months or longer," Staves says. "Sometimes I can't get a ride to get nothing to eat. I'm in here hungry."

coley.ward@creativeloafing.com


TOPICS: Culture/Society
KEYWORDS: cultureofdependency; democratplantation; evacuees; good4breedingonly; greatsociety; incapable; lbj; lbjlegacy; stupidlazyignorant
This is evidently supposed to be a sympathetic piece (Creative Loafing never met a government program it didn't like, except for the military). But it's very hard to sympathize with these people. No jobs WITHIN WALKING DISTANCE????
1 posted on 02/17/2006 5:11:22 PM PST by madprof98
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To: madprof98
Last month, my wife and I were in Cozumel, Mexico. Cozumel suffered through 60 hours of hurricane conditions and the damage was unbelievable.

Two months later, the citizens of Cozumel have restored the buildings and infra-structure so well, that it was difficult to identify what was damaged by the hurricane.

NEW ORLEANS HAS NO EXCUSE!

2 posted on 02/17/2006 5:15:33 PM PST by Hunble
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To: madprof98

Six months of free rent and they couldn't save ONE DOLLAR???

Creative Loafing is THE liberal rag of Atlanta. It is the "Gay" magazine, the "Witch" magazine, the "I hate Walmart" magazine.

I remember when the Iraq war broke they had a cover "New war gives old hippies new meaning". They don't know how derogatory that sounds, they thought they were glorifying anti-war hippies, but they were actually putting them down, haha.


3 posted on 02/17/2006 5:21:28 PM PST by sandbar
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To: madprof98

She spent $6,800 of OUR money on an apartment that she only spent three weeks in. If you can't find a job in or around Atlanta, you AINT looking!


4 posted on 02/17/2006 5:31:07 PM PST by southernerwithanattitude (New and improved redneck)
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To: madprof98

Some posts your just better just not commenting on. This is one.


5 posted on 02/17/2006 5:37:37 PM PST by AGreatPer (It's still 21-10)
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To: sandbar

22 years old with a 7 y/o son? That means she was 14 when she got knocked up????

Creative loafing starts very young in some cultures.


I for one am very tired of carrying them on my back in the form of too many taxes.


6 posted on 02/17/2006 5:37:59 PM PST by ridesthemiles
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To: madprof98
Many of the displaced people interviewed for this story expressed disappointment at what they deemed insufficient government assistance.

Six months free lodging at hotels such as the Drury Inn near the Atlanta Hartsfield Airport is insufficient?



You have got to be kidding me.

7 posted on 02/17/2006 5:40:39 PM PST by SkyPilot
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To: madprof98

900,000 acts of fraud discovered so far and the feds have already charged about 220 people.

Wow!


8 posted on 02/17/2006 5:40:53 PM PST by Supernatural (All the truth in the world adds up to one big lie! bob dylan)
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To: madprof98

Let's see, 22 years old with a 7 year old son. Gee, I wonder why life is tough. Having a kid when you are 15, barely beyond being a child yourself, shouldn't be held against one forever. Don't you think?


9 posted on 02/17/2006 5:43:14 PM PST by joem15
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To: madprof98

Let's see, 22 years old with a 7 year old son. Gee, I wonder why life is tough. Having a kid when you are 15, barely beyond being a child yourself, shouldn't be held against one forever. Don't you think?


10 posted on 02/17/2006 5:43:31 PM PST by joem15
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To: SkyPilot
Mexico does not have a FEMA and the people living on the island of Cozumel were not allowed to live in luxury hotels for six months.

Each and every citizen living on the island of Cozumel understood that tourist dollars keep their economy alive. In two months, what they achieved, was almost magic!

NEW ORLEANS HAS NO EXCUSE!

11 posted on 02/17/2006 5:44:52 PM PST by Hunble
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Comment #12 Removed by Moderator

To: ridesthemiles
Each of us who are producers support ourselves and our families -- but are also carrying a carload of helpless useless people.

The Katrina events really bring home that fact. Unfortunately the takers just keep indiscriminately breeding at an alarming rate.
13 posted on 02/17/2006 6:01:18 PM PST by BenLurkin (O beautiful for patriot dream - that sees beyond the years)
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To: BenLurkin

"Unfortunately the takers just keep indiscriminately breeding at an alarming rate".

And the white race is on a great decline because of the ease of abortion.


14 posted on 02/17/2006 6:04:43 PM PST by Supernatural (All the truth in the world adds up to one big lie! bob dylan)
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To: Supernatural

Race is not the issue.

At least not as far as I'm concerned.


15 posted on 02/17/2006 6:14:16 PM PST by BenLurkin (O beautiful for patriot dream - that sees beyond the years)
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To: BenLurkin

900,000 acts of fraud discovered so far and the feds have already charged about 220 people.

Wow!

Above is the only post I made on this thread.

And I mentioned race where? Perhaps you have me confused with someone else.


16 posted on 02/17/2006 6:25:09 PM PST by Supernatural (All the truth in the world adds up to one big lie! bob dylan)
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To: Supernatural

Sorry. I thought post 14 was yours.


17 posted on 02/17/2006 6:28:49 PM PST by BenLurkin (O beautiful for patriot dream - that sees beyond the years)
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To: BenLurkin
Race has not been the issue, recently. (As in the past 50 years)
Trash is trash, and has no particular color, nor economic class, or level of education achieved, or religious/political affiliation.
18 posted on 02/17/2006 6:32:26 PM PST by sarasmom (I don't care who John Gault is, I just need his email address.)
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To: BenLurkin

That's OK, we all can make a mistake.


19 posted on 02/17/2006 6:34:02 PM PST by Supernatural (All the truth in the world adds up to one big lie! bob dylan)
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To: BenLurkin

Sorry, post 14 was mine. And I meant it. The white race is being seriously outbread.

Just a fact.


20 posted on 02/17/2006 6:36:07 PM PST by Supernatural (All the truth in the world adds up to one big lie! bob dylan)
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To: madprof98
There is a free shuttle that offers transportation to Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport and back.

Where you can hop on the MARTA rail line and get to downtown, or Lennox, or to a lot of other areas with jobs, restaurants and shopping.

21 posted on 02/17/2006 6:54:49 PM PST by PAR35
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To: madprof98
Sonja Staves, a short, soft-spoken woman, says that after camping out for months at Country Hearth Inn & Suites in College Park, she received $6,800 from FEMA toward a new apartment. And that's exactly what she got. She found a one-bedroom unit at 900 Connally St., near Turner Field.

"How-to" Build This Log Cabin for $3,000

How to Build Your Own Log Home For Less Than $15,000 by Robert L. Williams

The Williams family was inspired by a tornado. The tornado destroyed their home in North Carolina and left them with little more than a wasteland of fallen trees. They had no experience with log construction, but learned to become resourceful with what they had. They ultimately built a 4,300 square foot log home for just $15,000!

The book includes coverage of site selection, drawing plans, chain-sawing and squaring logs, tools and equipment, foundation walls, sawing framing timbers, log wall construction, log girders, building floors, roof framing and sheathing, wiring and plumbing tips, chimneys, stairways, and decks, rustic windows and doors, cabinetry and book cases, chinking, insulating, and finishing touches.

The great thing about a book like this is that it helps put you back in the real world after you've heard so many "experts" claim that a new house is going to cost you $150,000. A good house shouldn't cost a lifetime to pay for it. Robert Williams' book should be an inspiration to owner-builders everywhere. 1996. Breakout Productions, Inc. 216 pages.

http://www.hollowtop.com/cls_html/do-it-yourself/loghomebks.htm

22 posted on 02/17/2006 6:59:12 PM PST by lowbridge (I want to die peacefully in my sleep like my grandfather. Not screaming, like his passengers.)
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To: Supernatural

Well, how many children do you have?


23 posted on 02/17/2006 7:00:29 PM PST by Aznar5
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To: Aznar5

None. I took care of all the babies I made with abortions.


24 posted on 02/17/2006 7:04:57 PM PST by Supernatural (All the truth in the world adds up to one big lie! bob dylan)
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To: madprof98
The squeaky wheel always gets the grease.
25 posted on 02/17/2006 7:08:49 PM PST by SeaBiscuit (God Bless America and Friends, the rest will go to hell.)
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To: sandbar

Newsflash: wal-mart sucks. 90% of freepers would probably agree.


26 posted on 02/17/2006 7:12:20 PM PST by Windsong (Jesus Saves, but Buddha makes incremental backups)
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To: madprof98

I am speechless.
Kalee shaking her head in amazement and disgust


27 posted on 02/17/2006 7:13:29 PM PST by kalee
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To: madprof98
Country Hearth Inn & Suites is within walking distance of just two restaurants: Joe's and Ruby Tuesday's. There is a free shuttle that offers transportation to Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport and back. And that's about it.

"I've been here three months or longer," Staves says. "Sometimes I can't get a ride to get nothing to eat. I'm in here hungry."

------------------------------------

Unbeliveable. I'm speechless.

28 posted on 02/17/2006 7:16:16 PM PST by Libertarian444
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To: lowbridge

With the amount of trees down between Katrina and Rita those log cabins could have been built for free!


29 posted on 02/17/2006 7:22:23 PM PST by CajunConservative (Don't Blame Me, I Voted for Jindal.)
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To: madprof98

I ride MARTA to school each day. I know that the airport, College Park, and Decatur are all served by rail. For $55, you can ride MARTA unlimited for an entire month. It is inexcusable that they didn't get a job in Atlanta in five months.


30 posted on 02/17/2006 7:42:15 PM PST by Hoodat ( Silly Dems, AYBABTU.)
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To: Windsong

>>>Newsflash: wal-mart sucks. 90% of freepers would probably agree.>>>

Newsflash: Your opinion is not fact. And I don't care what 90% of freepers agree on. Apparently 90% of the country does not agree as they continue to do 90% of the business.


31 posted on 02/17/2006 7:47:08 PM PST by sandbar
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To: Libertarian444

Well, she did (most likely fake) get that pinched nerve in the foot, that conveniently is letting her draw workers comp from the cruise ship company job he landed. She can't be expected to hobble next door for something as un-necessary as food now, could she?


32 posted on 02/17/2006 7:48:15 PM PST by Wolfhound777 (It's not our job to forgive them. Only God can do that. Our job is to arrange the meeting)
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To: lowbridge

Backwood home magazine had a great article about a single woman who built her own log home(vertical logs), as awesome as that is...it's probably not something anyone can do.


33 posted on 02/18/2006 9:17:47 AM PST by Katya (Homo Nosce Te Ipsum)
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To: Supernatural
"None. I took care of all the babies I made with abortions."

No faith in your genetics?

Just as well, I wouldn't want the baby murdering gene to continue into the future.

34 posted on 02/18/2006 2:49:58 PM PST by Aznar5
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