JIM LEHRER: Now, the relocation problems caused by Katrina's wrath. Spencer Michels spent a weekend with a family in Baton Rouge.
SPENCER MICHELS: On a sultry Baton Rouge afternoon, Troynel Wright led a contingent of her relatives to a crowded city shelter, looking for help. She is a third year law student living in Baton Rouge, whose studies have been completely disrupted by nearly 20 family members from New Orleans seeking a place to stay in her apartment.
TROYNEL WRIGHT: I have a newborn; he's sleeping in the bed with my two year old and myself. Now it's my mother. And my husband sleeps on the floor. Others sleep on the sofa; others sleep on the floor. Wherever. They sleep in the bed, four or five to a bed.
SPENCER MICHELS: The Wright's relatives are among hundreds of thousands of people who have left New Orleans, many of their homes underwater or too damaged to live in, after levees broke flooding the below-sea-level city -- 130,000 residents didn't have cars. The Wright family got to Baton Rouge any way they could. Jonathan Wright hitchhiked.
REPORTER: The whole family?
JONATHAN WRIGHT: Yes sir, five people, we got on the back of a truck with my 70-year-old mother-in-law and my pregnant daughter.
WOMAN: They had to get me out through a window. They had to break the window and rescue me in a boat.
SPENCER MICHELS: What were you thinking at the time, did you think you were going to make it?
WOMAN 1: I knew I was going to make it because I'm a survivor.
WOMAN 2: I'm sick, and I'm taking medicine, and I'm just here.
WOMAN 1: In line to get that medicine.
WOMAN 2: I'm homeless.
SPENCER MICHELS: Troynel and Eric Wright live in a two bedroom apartment, former military housing, in the Scotlandville section of Baton Rouge. And now brothers, cousins, nephews, nieces, mothers and in-laws have descended on them.
TROYNEL WRIGHT: Pregnant girl, the grandmother. The children. My baby can't sleep in his baby bed. We're just trying to make do.
SPENCER MICHELS: The one bathroom is overcrowded to say the least.
PERSON: You gotta, like, get a number to get in there. (Laughter)
SPENCER MICHELS: For Eric, who got his law degree last year and fears his bar exam may have been lost in the flood, the bills are beginning to pile up, while family income declines.
ERIC WRIGHT: The test is going to be whether we can all survive in this two bedroom house for three months without killing each other. But let the truth be told, my wife and I may have to go the shelter also because if the assistance doesn't come soon, I mean, we can't afford to take care of ourselves and live here.
SPENCER MICHELS: The River Center Shelter the Wrights went to inspect lies across the street from the Mississippi River. The Wrights had to go through a security check, manned by armed MP's from the Nebraska National Guard. This shelter is one of nearly 600 set up in 19 states, almost half in Louisiana alone. And it's run by the Red Cross, mostly by volunteers.
SPOKESPERSON: This is so if you go outside they'll let you back in, okay?
SPENCER MICHELS: Nearly all the 1,700 shelter residents are from downriver. On Sunday a group of men cheered for the New Orleans Saints from this unlikely location. (Cheers) Red Cross officials say that while the numbers in the shelters have gone down somewhat, this disaster is different from others. Shelter manager Pom Fountain says many evacuees are staying.
POM FOUNTAIN: I've been told time and time again that people from this part of the country don't move around a lot, and so the people are going to wait for their homes. Most of them do not want to relocate.
SPENCER MICHELS: For the extended Wright family, just visiting the shelter offered a chance to sign up for some aid and medical attention that they couldn't seem to get at their overcrowded home. Troynel Wright's mother decided to move to the shelter, finding it more comfortable than the apartment.
The population in the shelter alone speaks to one of the most perplexing problems facing those displaced by the flood.
SPOKESMAN: We need a way to get them out of here into the community; we need a way to get them out here in Baton Rouge, close to New Orleans, in their own state.
ERIC WRIGHT: The frustration is there, you know, it's just that we don't show it, we try to stay calm as much as possible, you know, to benefit, you know, all the people we have staying with us.
SPENCER MICHELS: What is very frustrating at Eric and Troynel Wright's apartment is not knowing when things will get back to normal. And at the Baton Rouge shelter, not knowing how long before residents will be able to leave and when this complex operation can shut down.
JIM LEHRER: Gwen Ifill takes it from there.
GWEN IFILL: Initial estimates suggest nearly one million people like the Wrights were displaced by Katrina; they are part of the largest mass migration of Americans since the 1930s. Communities throughout the country are absorbing the overflow.
We take a look at that now and how they're doing it with Joyce Russell, chief operating officer at Adecco, a temporary employment company working with evacuees; Lee Clarke, a sociologist at Rutgers University whose most recent book, "Worst Cases," is about disaster response; and the Republican governor of Arkansas, Mike Huckabee -- more than 60,000 people have fled to his state since Katrina.
Governor Huckabee, I gather that 60,000 number means that your population has increased by two and a half percent. How are you doing this?
GOV. MIKE HUCKABEE: Well, we're handling it very well, Gwen. The people of Arkansas have accepted these folks as neighbors and friends and have asked them to practice the golden rule: Treat them like you'd want to be treated, and they've done that and I'm very proud of them. This is a disaster that has touched all of our hearts but it has also caused us to reach out our hands, and we try to make sure that we can assimilate these people by spreading out the evacuees not just in one location, but we created 26 camps using church camps that were closed for the summer, perfect timing, and we've been able to get folks there as well as obviously the thousands that are staying either with family, friends, hotels, motels, and other forms of shelter.
GWEN IFILL: What kind of effect has this had on -- or strain has this placed on public services?
GOV. MIKE HUCKABEE: Well, once again, because we've spread it out, we have not felt like we've been overwhelmed. I mean, our hospitals are certainly getting a lot of new patients, we have people in nursing homes; we have kids going into public schools by the thousands. But the net result is no one school district is having to absorb all of the impact because of the way they're spread.
But the key reason we felt that spreading evacuees to many parts of the state, they get a lot more personal attention, and one thing we feel very strongly about: These people need to feel as individuals, every one of them is a special person; they don't need to be somehow corralled into making that they're in a group, that everyone has a name. We need to call them by name, let them get to know a volunteer by name, build relationships -- because what they've been through has been very, very dehumanizing.
GWEN IFILL: Professor Clarke, we just heard what the nuts and bolts are -- how you create the camps, give people a place to stay. We heard the Wrights talk about the emotional stress of being family on top of family in small spaces in many cases.
Is there an emotional component of this as well that somehow governments and private agencies even have to be prepared to deal with?
LEE CLARKE: Sure there is. And it's a crucial component, because people need to feel a sense of connection to their communities and to their families. If that sense, if it disappears, then we know all kinds of bad things follow from that. It's not clear that government can make those connections happen for people, however.
One of the things I worry about is the second social and psychological disaster that could come from people feeling unmoored and disconnected.
GWEN IFILL: Explain that some more to me. When you mean - unmoored and disconnected - you mean people who are used to be being in the same place, living in the same state in a familiar way, suddenly being plunged into the unfamiliar?
LEE CLARKE: There are two sets of people here. There are people who are going to stay away from New Orleans, and there are people who are going to want to go back. They want to go back - people want to go back for that sense of community that they had there. But it's questionable the degree to which people who do not want to go back are going to be able to make that, those connections, to develop that sense of belonging. I hope that they can.
The good people of Texas, Arkansas and the other host communities have opened their hearts and their wallets, but there's a limit to people's generosity. What I worry about is if, if the evacuees come to be seen as a threat in some way, come to be seen as a burden to schools, tax bases and so on, if they become to be seen that way, then their sense of connection will not be fostered.
GWEN IFILL: Joyce Russell, let's talk about one of the things that some of the evacuees are trying to do, which is get a little work. You've been working with evacuees? What has your experience been like, your company's?
JOYCE RUSSELL: We've had a very positive experience; we've gone to the shelters and found them work. We've reached out to our client companies and found them, found assignments for them, and we've had a very, very positive experience at Adecco.
GWEN IFILL: Explain to me how you do that. Have you been setting up in shelters; have you been reaching out to individuals; do they approach you -- how does that work?
JOYCE RUSSELL: We've actually gone to them. We've gone to the job fairs in each community, we've gone to the shelters and we've gone to them instead of waiting for them to come to us. We found wonderful assignments for them from clerical to call center to light industrial work, and we've not found one victim that has not taken a job when we've offered them employment.
GOV. MIKE HUCKABEE: Well we see three stages, the immediate stage when they came off the airplanes and busses having not showered or eaten in days; the intermediate phase which is right now, what many of them are experiencing, trying to decide are they going to relocate in Arkansas, will they try to go back or maybe hook up with family elsewhere, and then the long-term, so we've created an enormous level of task force throughout the state, helping people with housing, with employment, getting connected to the schools and community, making them feel as if they would be truly welcome in the community, and much to my delight, churches here have acted like churches; they've really reached out with loving hearts, and they've made people feel wanted. And they are wanted. We're not trying to push these people away somewhere, because we know they've been through a lot of.
We are simply trying to ask, if this were me, how would I want to be treated. And by approaching it that way, it's really not been, well, let me put it this way. It's a difficult task, but it's not an impossible task.
GWEN IFILL: Have you seen any signs yet of evacuee fatigue?
GOV. MIKE HUCKABEE: Well, I think there's always going to be some of that, both from volunteers and evacuees, but right now what we're seeing is an enormous level of gratitude. People are just so grateful that they've been received, that their needs are being met, whether it's their banking needs or dealing with insurance, or helping them to find long term housing or employment, or even the simple things like medication or eyeglasses.
Folks are willing to volunteer. And I know that there's going to come a time when people will just get worn out. But that's why we're trying to accelerate the pace of getting people in a permanent settlement situation.
GWEN IFILL: Professor Clarke, as you've looked at other disasters of this kind where people have been dispersed by other reasons, reasons outside of their control, how do communities -- how can they prepare for the long-term social and economic integration of these, in many cases, very culturally different people?
LEE CLARKE: It's difficult to say how the communities can prepare. We know that it's entirely normal for communities to open their hearts and to welcome people after disaster, to look after fellow Americans. What we don't know here is going forward, three, six, twelve months, if those people are still being asked to provide for folks who might come to be seen as outsiders, we don't know what those effects are going to be. We don't know how that's going to play out --
GWEN IFILL: I'm sorry -- What is it we know about how it's played out in other cases, in other places where there have been hurricanes or earthquakes?
LEE CLARKE: It's one of the things that is unique about Katrina, the massive dislocation that's going to go on for so long. Possibly the only thing we have to compare it to is -- are the Oakies in the late 20s and early 30s. That did not go well. Those people went to California and other states and they were turned away, the term Oakies was not a term of endearment, so indeed those people came to be seen as threats to local communities.
So we owe a great debt of gratitude to the good people of Arkansas and Texas and the other host communities, but we just know that there are limits to people's generosity, going way down the road.
GWEN IFILL: Joyce Russell, what do you do with people who come to you with different kinds of skills -- say someone -- we just saw the Wrights in the last piece and they were working -- they have law degrees and they are trying to be upwardly mobile and now they find themselves being pushed back -- people who have come with engineering degrees, and now they're -- what are they happy for any kind of work, and will that hold for the long-term?
JOYCE RUSSELL: They are, they've not -- they've accepted every assignment that we've offered them. We've had people with construction background and landscaping background and even cooks from New Orleans, but they're taking all kind of work from us. They are packing batteries in a warehouse; they're working at wonderful companies like Nike. So we have not seen them wanting to stay specifically in their skill set. They've been very, very, you know, they've just been open to other assignments.
GWEN IFILL: Is it fair to assume that you're talking about the short-term temporary employment, however?
JOYCE RUSSELL: You know, we don't know if it's temporary or permanent. They might have moved from New Orleans here to Charlotte, North Carolina, and they might think that it's temporary, but they might take up permanent residence here. So we have many people that have temporary assignments as well as interviewed for full-time work right here.
GWEN IFILL: Governor Huckabee, who pays, to put it bluntly, for all of this? There's a lot of good will right now, but at some point the dollar signs are going to begin to add up.
GOV. MIKE HUCKABEE: It is going to be costly, and whether or not the federal government will reimburse a lot of the state costs, we don't fully know. We think they will; we hope they do. But even if they don't, this is really about doing what's right, and what's right is to give these folks a chance to stand on their own feet. That means some of us are going to have to make some sacrifices to do it.
I can assure you, government has spent money in ways that weren't nearly as valuable as it is investing in people who have been through a horrible tragedy, who really do need the assistance that we can offer to them, whether it's getting their kids in school, getting them medically upright -- and even such things, we were talking about employment, we're offering reciprocity to license for electricians and architects, even lawyers -- our Supreme Court has allowed Louisiana attorneys to come.
Now I would say the last thing we need is a whole bunch more lawyers here. But the fact is we're trying to accommodate people who do come with skills and with specialties -- many of which will find a very open market for it.
GWEN IFILL: Is counseling part of that equation as well?
GOV. MIKE HUCKABEE: It's a very important part of it. Our mental health facilities throughout the state, particularly our community mental health centers have been activated; again because these folks are spread out, we're not just overwhelming any one mental health center, but we're making sure that teams of mental health professionals there are to help people through post trauma syndrome that we know they're going to experience and many already are.
GWEN IFILL: Governor Mike Huckabee, Joyce Russell, Lee Clarke, thank you all very much.