- Associated Press - Saturday, September 10, 2016

DENHAM SPRINGS, La. (AP) - A month after flooding inundated south Louisiana, more than 850 people remain in shelters, unable to find more stable housing since the waters forced them from home.

The Advocate reports (https://bit.ly/2cO0S9U ) shelters remain open in East Baton Rouge, Ascension, Livingston, East Feliciana and Tangipahoa parishes.

The population is substantially down from a height of more than 11,000, and people continue to leave shelters each day. But others remain stuck, struggling to make progress on finding rental property and transportation, keys to moving on.

Gerald and Cris Burkins have cycled through six shelters over the past month, celebrating their 29th wedding anniversary in one of them, since their house in Walker filled with more than five feet of water. They learned their daughter’s boyfriend was in a car wreck that killed him, and they still haven’t been able to see her.

The Burkins say they’ve lost track of time because it doesn’t matter much anymore. They and the 90 others still sleeping at the L.M. Lockhart Center in Denham Springs wonder if anyone remembers them.

“The aftermath is worse than the actual flood,” Gerald Burkins said.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has teams at every shelter, trying to help people access available assistance programs. The American Red Cross and Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Baton Rouge are among other agencies trying to help people in shelters figure out the options for their next form of housing.

FEMA spokesman Alberto Pillot said people in shelters who owned or rented property before the floods qualify for the agency’s transitional shelter assistance. But he said once FEMA gives someone the assistance they need, that person is responsible for finding the rental unit, hotel room or next place to go.

Catholic Charities Executive Director David Aguillard said few available rental units and hotel rooms have made it harder for people to find more stable living situations. Meanwhile, shelters have closed and consolidated, forcing people to move multiple times, each time trying to adjust to a new large space full of cots and a new group of people.

People who say they are searching every day for a way to leave shelters are becoming discouraged.

“The attitude changed,” said Tyrone Trent, who has been staying at the Baton Rouge River Center with his wife, Donna Miles, after their rental home flooded. “When people did things for you in the beginning, it was ‘We want to help.’ Now, it’s changed. We didn’t ask to be homeless.”

Miles said: “Everybody has gone on with their life. Their life never stopped, but ours did.”


Information from: The Advocate, https://theadvocate.com

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