Life after Hurricane Katrina - Stuck in temporary housing

News and Press Release
Originally published
The immediate impact of a natural disaster is horrifying, but for families waiting to return to their homes, life in temporary housing continues the desolation indefinitely. Nearly two years after hurricanes Katrina and Rita laid waste to communities across the Gulf Coast, many families are still not back in their homes. Save the Children staffers, Lena and Michele, describe conditions they saw during a recent visit to the Sugar Hill Temporary Housing Park in St. James Parish, LA., where people feel stranded and stuck.

About 70 miles west of New Orleans on the banks of the Mississippi is the commercial temporary housing site known to locals as Sugar Hill Trailer Park. This sea of white mobile homes lining a dusty limestone road provides shelter for some 435 people who are still waiting to return to their homes in Orleans and Jefferson Parishes in the greater New Orleans area. There are no services available for 10 miles in any direction. How do we know? Because that's how far we had to drive to buy a can of soda.

It's Wednesday afternoon, and some school-age boys are loitering around a trailer. A nearby field is stacked with rusting cars and farm equipment. There is no security for the temporary site, and some of the mobile homes have been vandalized, with windows broken and doors jimmied open. In the light drizzle there is a pervasive smell of raw sewage.

The lack of services is a recurring complaint among the residents of Sugar Hill. There is no medical care and no emergency services. There are no laundry facilities, no public transportation or grocery stores and limited food bank distributions. There is no child care or space to play for approximately 145 children who live here. The nearest towns do not have the capacity to employ this large influx of residents, and without public transportation, finding a job in the nearest big cities, Baton Rouge or New Orleans, is nearly impossible. "Stuck," is how people describe themselves. "I am just completely stuck."

Today, we're meeting with a representative from Catholic Charities, one of the only other organizations working at Sugar Hill on a regular basis. She has been trying to advocate for better services since Sugar Hill opened late last year. "Thank goodness for Save the Children," she sighed. "Where do we even begin?"

Introducing services at Sugar Hill Park has been a top priority for Save the Children since our visit last month. Through our Safe and Protective Communities Project, we are working in Sugar Hill and nine other temporary housing sites to help build community among residents and increase services for children and families.