Katrina and Ike victims treated differently

June 2, 2009 8:56:04 AM PDT
Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast nearly four years ago and the impact area is still far from recovered. Thousands of people are still living in trailer homes you pay for. The feds recently told them time is up and they have to move out. But by now you should know that FEMA treats Katrina victims a little differently than victims of any other storm. Deadlines extended, money gets laid out and rules get waived. We found out that even when FEMA tries to get tough, the agency ends up backing down.

It was supposed to be Herb Carver's last weekend in a FEMA trailer.

"I don't like living in it, but I am going as fast as I can," he told us.

After three and a half years FEMA finally told Carver, who is a 60-year-old retiree, along with 2,600 other Louisiana families, to move out of these trailers.

"I don't know what their big rush is," asked Carver.

It depends how you define rush. The trailer was supposed to be his for just 18 months. That was two years ago.

"I can't afford to hire a contractor and when I did, I didn't get a fair deal out of it," he explained to us.

There are stories like his all over New Orleans, but it's been three and a half years.

"I want to stay in a little bit longer," Carver admitted.

Now he can. With the deadline approaching and no solution aside from eviction in sight, FEMA decided "no one would be evicted." The agency ended up stretching the deadline indefinitely.

"This is another of many deadline extensions," said community organizer Shaena Johnson. "We don't see an end in sight and basically it keeps these families in a perpetual state of crisis."

This is the start of the fourth hurricane season since Katrina victims got their trailers from the federal government. There isn't a deadline for them to get out.

"FEMA is the federal government and the federal government did this to me," Carver said.

Carver sees no problem with that since he blames faulty federally built levees for the flood in the first place. Something he says doesn't extend to victims of Ike who have just nine more months before their assistance runs out.

"It wasn't like the federal government was responsible, that was an act of God," Carver told us.

Part of the problem is that FEMA has in many ways replaced the social service system in New Orleans. Contractor fraud goes unpunished, there is little public housing and charities are stretched.

For the thousands still in trailers, FEMA is the only option until homeowners renovate flooded homes. Herb Carver and others we spoke with think they can finish by the end of the year. About the time Ike victims start getting their eviction notices too.

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