Katrina survivors return to New Orleans

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Just as Doctor John croons in his tribute to the Crescent City, it’s “sweet home, New Orleans” for lifelong resident Robert L. Green Sr.

This weekend, he slept on a bed in his own home in the Lower 9th Ward for the first time in the four years since Hurricane Katrina flattened his neighborhood and killed both his mother and infant granddaughter.

“I will put a sign up that says, ‘There’s no place like home,’ because it’s true,” Mr. Green told The Washington Times during a recent visit to Washington. He has previously appeared on the newspaper’s front page for a story on President Obama’s Katrina policy.

Mr. Green’s home is a brand new 1,800-square foot, four-bedroom, two-bathroom house, built as part of actor Brad Pitt’s Make it Right program in New Orleans.

Four years after the storm, more families also are finding their way.

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D.C. public housing authorities recently reunited a 73-year-old New Orleans man with his brother, thanks in part to Google and the publicity surrounding the Pitt project.

Herlin Griffin had been living in D.C. courtesy of Katrina vouchers. He had arrived here with no identification and case workers had been searching for any family members, but his memory was hazy and he didn’t even have an emergency contact.

Earlier this month, Mr. Griffin’s voucher was expiring and he was about to transfer into another housing program, when he told special programs coordinator Vickie Ryan of the housing office he wanted his little brother, finally remembering a name. She called the Federal Emergency Management Agency and New Orleans organizations trying to find Lloyd Griffin but had no success until she went the new technology route.

A quick Google search revealed several news stories about Lloyd Griffin moving into one of the Make it Right homes.

Ms. Ryan turned the monitor around for Mr. Griffin to see the photograph and the 73-year-old exclaimed, “That’s my brother, that’s my brother!”

These stories aren’t impossible to imagine, since in the days after the storm the situation was chaos as residents were scattered across the country, said Ms. Ryan, a Katrina survivor herself.

She couldn’t find a phone number for Lloyd Griffin, so asked the New Orleans Police to go to the home on Tennessee Street, a short walk from Mr. Green’s new home.

Twenty minutes later a woman called, asking whether Herlin Griffin was there.

“When I told her yes, he was sitting right there with me, everybody started screaming and yelling in the background,” Ms. Ryan said. “And when I handed him the phone words can’t even describe how he looked when he heard that voice. He suddenly seemed like a much younger man.”

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About the Author

Christina Bellantoni

Christina Bellantoni is a White House correspondent for The Washington Times in Washington, D.C., a post she took after covering the 2008 Democratic presidential campaigns. She has been with The Times since 2003, covering state and Congressional politics before moving to national political beat for the 2008 campaign. Bellantoni, a San Jose native, graduated from UC Berkeley with ...

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