Louisiana’s parishes feel ‘forgotten’ in the dark weeks after Hurricane Ida

Residents in Louisiana have begun the long process of recovery following Hurricane Ida, which destroyed or caused major damage for about 8,000 homes statewide. While the city of New Orleans has largely recovered, the coastal parishes of Lafourche and Terrebonne are struggling with prolonged power outages and a growing housing crisis. Community reporter Roby Chavez reports from the ground.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Hurricane Ida left a devastating wake. Power outages, extreme heat, and a housing crisis continue to take a toll.

    "NewsHour"'s community reporter, Roby Chavez, has this report.

  • Roby Chavez:

    For Britney Gano, it feels like Hurricane Ida hit Southeast Louisiana three weeks ago and never left.

  • Britanny Gauno, Louisiana Resident:

    We're still without everything. We have actually seen nobody to come and help. And nothing's changed.

  • Roby Chavez:

    You're feeling a bit forgotten?

  • Britanny Gauno:

    We are forgotten. It is not a feeling. It's factual. Like, you can see it for your own self.

  • Roby Chavez:

    Gauno lives in the Senator Circle public housing complex in Houma, about 60 miles from New Orleans.

    Ida tore through here with winds of at least 150 miles per hour. There were over a million power outages across the region, crippling an already vulnerable grid. The lights are back on now for many. But Gauno, her partner and their 3-year-old son are among the thousands still in the dark.

  • Britanny Gauno:

    Like a Third world country, basically. But, I mean, we know how to survive, and that's that's exactly what we're doing, surviving. We're not living life happy or anything. We're just surviving.

  • Roby Chavez:

    Last week, the Houma-Terrebonne Housing Authority, which is responsible for this complex, put a message on Facebook saying residents could not return.

    That note, Gauno said, is all they have heard from the authority. Representatives did not return our request for comment.

    In the aftermath of Hurricane Ida, an emerging housing crisis grows. Hundreds have been forced from their homes, others now living on porches, in tents, or even in their cars. Dozens remain in shelters.

  • Hannah Adams, Southeast Louisiana Legal Services:

    These people literally have nowhere to go.

  • Roby Chavez:

    Hannah Adams is a staff attorney at Southeast Louisiana Legal Services, which helps low-income tenants.

  • Hannah Adams:

    A lot of people are faced with this really difficult choice, right? Are they going to sleep in the car, sleep in a two-bedroom house with 16 relatives? Or are they going to drive eight, 10 hours away to a place where they can actually find an apartment and/or a hotel room, but where they're going to lose their job?

  • Roby Chavez:

    So, you have been living here?

  • Joseph Hebert, Louisiana Resident:

    Yes.

  • Roby Chavez:

    Joseph Hebert is now living in a tent where his family's trailers were badly damaged. He's not going anywhere, no matter the living conditions.

  • Joseph Hebert:

    We have lost houses before. We're from Louisiana. We're going to get through it.

    Take care of one another, not just family, neighbors, everybody. That's the only way South Louisiana's going to get through this.

  • Roby Chavez:

    Now Louisiana's government leaders are pleading for help. Governor John Bel Edwards, who's in Washington this week, says unmet housing needs from Ida could top $2.5 billion. So far, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, has approved more than $220 million in housing assistance.

    But local leaders say it isn't just the money. They're simply in desperate need of housing units.

    Lafourche Parish President Archie Chaisson pressed FEMA for more temporary housing in a call last week.

    Archie Chaisson, President of Lafourche Parish, Louisiana: Clean them and send them.

  • Roby Chavez:

    About a quarter of the houses in his parish are completely destroyed.

  • Archie Chaisson:

    At one point, it was going to be 45 to 60 days before we got some of the stuff in place. And I can't bridge a gap that long. I can't let people — in one particular case I always use, we have an employee who works every day for us, busts his butt 14 hours a day, and goes to sleep in a bridge house that we have, because he lost everything.

    I can't continue to ask him to do that for another 30 to 60 days. I need something on the ground now.

  • Roby Chavez:

    In the meantime, nonprofits are filling the gap. The organization SBP is helping residents like Debra Hartman salvage what's left of her childhood home.

  • Debra Hartman, Louisiana Resident:

    It's things that I have known all my life. My grandmother rocked us in that rocker, and now we have to throw it away.

  • Roby Chavez:

    Building back will be nearly impossible with no insurance, a fixed income, and an 80-year-old mother with Alzheimer's.

  • Debra Hartman:

    I have heard people say they have lost everything, but I never knew what it felt like to actually lose everything.

  • Roby Chavez:

    And it's neighbors like Hartman that Britanny Gauno worries about most in a region where the recovery has all but stalled.

  • Britanny Gauno:

    It's just other people, Like, we're fine, but to people that aren't blessed in the ways that we are blessed, like, they're not eating every day. You never know what you got until it's gone. And it's just sad. It's just sad.

  • Roby Chavez:

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Roby Chavez in Southeast Louisiana.

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