TOM BEARDEN: Baker is a sleepy little community of 14,000 that shares a border with Baton Rouge, about 80 miles northwest of New Orleans. People fleeing Hurricane Katrina increased the population by half this month.
And the Federal Emergency Management Agency is now constructing a trailer park designed to hold some 600 mobile homes and camper trailers. Some residents expressed serious concern about some of the people the government might put in those trailers, fears sparked by the scenes of violence that broke out in New Orleans shortly after the storm. But none would speak to us on camera. Eddie Wiggins and his family live just down the road from the new trailer community. He's willing to give his new neighbors a chance.
EDDIE WIGGINS: Actually I have no problem with it. I think it's okay. I believe in giving everyone the benefit of the doubt. I mean I don't want to prejudge.
TOM BEARDEN: Wiggins said he's assuming the new residents are "good people."
EDDIE WIGGINS: I hope and pray that these new neighbors respect the neighborhood. And if they respect the neighborhood, the neighborhood will respect them.
TOM BEARDEN: Mayor Harold Rideau says Baker opened its arms to the first wave of evacuees three weeks ago and has rapidly assimilated their children into the local schools.
MAYOR HAROLD RIDEAU: We have about 400 children in the Baker school system now. It's putting a considerable financial strain on the school system because they didn't plan for this, so that means -- it means hiring additional teachers, so that's an additional expense -- books.
TOM BEARDEN: Many of the children's families are still living in four shelters that remain open. Others are staying with relatives or families that have taken them in. At first, the mayor thought the government planned to move those families into the new trailers. But he says he can't get any straight answers from FEMA about whether the agency might fill the trailers with even more evacuees.
MAYOR HAROLD RIDEAU: I'm real upset, displeased at the whole situation.
TOM BEARDEN: Whose fault is that?
MAYOR HAROLD RIDEAU: It would be whoever's assigning, who is making the assignments. I think it would be their fault. And I don't want to point the finger right now, but, you know, we are making a sacrifice. And if I might inject this, let's say they don't take anybody in Baker. You know, with the increase, people we have in the shelters, plus the people who are actually staying with relatives, okay that's a number that we're having to deal with right now. And we're having to deal with a lot of traffic. Okay, you don't take any of those and you bring in 2,200 people from some other area and put them here, I don't think that's fair to us, and you know our infrastructure cannot support it.
TOM BEARDEN: Are you on the point of being overwhelmed?
MAYOR HAROLD RIDEAU: Yes.
TOM BEARDEN: Are you getting assistance from any level of government?
MAYOR HAROLD RIDEAU: No, we have not received as of yet any monetary assistance; as far as support from staff, we've gotten very little support as far as helping us through this situation. We can't say we're not going to do it. We have to reach out and try to help people. And we have some great people here in the shelter. And they're are just hard-working, honest people.
TOM BEARDEN: The pressure mounts as each day passes. Dina Stevenson and her four children have been living in the Red Cross shelter inside the municipal building for more than three weeks. She has a job but can't find a place to rent. And she doesn't want to have to move again.
DINA STEVENSON: No, because now I have my kids enrolled in the school system, and I just don't want to -- they're already displaced -- you know what I'm saying -- from what they're used to and they're getting used to and getting adjusted in this school system. I just don't want to up and move. You know what I'm saying? And just shake things up for them all over again.
TOM BEARDEN: How hard is it to live here?
DINA STEVENSON: It's very hard. I mean, you're used to living with five to six people in a house, you know, a family with four kids and a husband and a wife, and then you got maybe like over 150 people that you're actually sharing your housing with. It's really rough.
TOM BEARDEN: Stevenson says everybody in the shelter is eager to get a place of their own and have some privacy once again.
On Thursday, FEMA officials told us they plan to start moving people into trailers over the weekend. But only 30 trailers are in place now and contractors --who started construction here just five days ago -- are doubtful a move in is possible -- especially with Hurricane Rita on the way.