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Day 12 of Hurricane Katrina Aftermath

Long Lines, Angry People

by staff |
September 9, 2005
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"Hurricane Katrina survivors at Astrodome in Houston, TX"
Above:
People from New Orleans, outside the Astrodome in Houston. (Fight Back! News/Trishalla Bell)
Hurricane Katrina survivors at Astrodome in Houston, TX "Mother and child, Hurricane Katrina survivors at Astrodome in Houston, TX" "Hurricane Katrina survivors at Astrodome in Houston, TX"
Left:
People from New Orleans, outside the Astrodome in Houston.
Center:
New Orleans residents outside the Astrodome in Houston.
Right:
Fight Back! reporter, Trishalla Bell (left) in Houston talks with people who evacuated from New Orleans.

Houston, Texas - Hundreds more New Orleaneans came to the Astrodome today seeking help. Yet many were turned away at the security gate and given nothing. The people who left New Orleans before Katrina landed are very aware that without federal government aid, they will not be able to survive much longer.

Heather Pierre, a mother of a two-year old boy talked about being turned away from FEMA help for not having a wristband: "They're telling us to come to the Astrodome to see about FEMA funds, and when we get there they're turning you around at the gate because you don't have a wristband on your wrist. People have been standing here since 5:00 this morning and we haven't been getting any help. I haven't been able to find a job - I don't have any income at all. And if I don't get this help from FEMA, I'm going to be stuck out, just like everybody else. It's a no-win situation out here."

Of the 1,000,000 people who fled New Orleans before Katrina, several hundred thousand are believed to be living in Houston, Texas. Most people have managed to find friends, family, strangers and hotels to take shelter. But as the draining of their city continues, most are now facing a confusing bureaucracy that drains them financially and emotionally as well.

FEMA? What FEMA!

Thousands of people walked to the Astrodome main entrance. Some were warned by those leaving that they would not be allowed to enter because they were not wearing a wristband.

FEMA cards worth $2,000 in cash value were supposed to be given out to Astrodome residents. Some cards malfunctioned and had no money. Stores next to the Astrodome (Target, Fiesta Mart, Big Lots, Payless Shoes and others) were racking up strong sales throughout the day with clothing, shoes, suitcases and hot, cooked food being the most popular items.

People from New Orleans, outside the Astrodome in Houston.

For non-Astrodome residents to get FEMA cards, you need to go to Social Security to register even if you have already received your FEMA number from their website and then must return to get processed. Today processing of new cards stopped by 2 p.m. because there were too many people. The FEMA phone number had a recorded message, "Because of the high volume of calls for the victims of Hurricane Katrina, all representatives are busy. Your call will now be disconnected."

"Bush really needs to open his eyes and see what's really going on and get off his high horse and help us. There's too many people walking around here with the clothes on their back," Thomas said.

The real-feel temperature reached 95 degrees. Taking shade under trees at the intersection of the Astrodome entrance and Kirby Street was a temporary rest for two African American boys who only wanted to attend school. Ninety-nine percent of the people coming to the Astrodome are African American. From yesterday to today, the police and store security guards have become a visible presence watching over the people here.

The government brags about getting folks out of the Astrodome in Houston. However, as the thousands turned away today can speak to, once they are out, all help is gone. Proud families are forced to wander from place to place in search of the basics of food, clothing and shelter. This is the government's version of 'success.' But the people outside the Astrodome today were not fooled. The anger of the mothers, fathers and children was unmistakable.