16% of Katrina victims say their lives are back to normal

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A survey of over six hundred adults from Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama reveals that only 16% consider their lives as “back to normal” after Katrina hit their communities. A third of those who have returned to their homes say they may move away, and half of those who have not moved back say they are unlikely to do so. 63% are living in the houses in which they lived before the storm; this is 8% higher than a fall of 2005 survey showed. 60% are in the same jobs they were in before the storm, compared with 61% last fall.

70% of those surveyed reported that someone went out of her or his way to help them last year, and 25% reported that someone tried to take advantage of them. Those most often named were FEMA, contractors and gas stations. Nearly two thirds said that federal and state response has been “fair” or “poor.” Almost that many said the same of local government response.

Financially speaking, 25% said that they “lost everything,” 24% took a “major financial hit,” 38% “suffered some losses,” and 12% said they were “not really hurt” financially by Katrina and its aftermath.

Those who were relatively lucky still have to cope with stores with shortened hours, pine beetles that emerged from the fallen trees and are eating their way through yards, and–in some outlying Louisiana parishes–an influx of residents who have helped create major traffic problems. These issues, however, are very insignificant compared with those faced by the people who are living in crowded conditions with extended family, still living in trailers, or who were never even given a trailer by FEMA.

Many life-long residents have gone away and will never come back. Many are facing the challenge of having lost a job or a business. Even worse, of course, are those who have lost loved ones. There is a shortage of cash, a shortage of mental health treatment in some areas, and the continuing nightmare of insurance company failures, neglect and red tape.

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