Video: Thousands of survivors seek jobs

NBC News
By Ron Allen Correspondent
NBC News
updated 9/12/2005 7:55:11 PM ET 2005-09-12T23:55:11

At a Houston job center in an evacuee shelter, NBC News found workers who used to be clerks, truck drivers and government employees — hundreds of evacuees who, in addition to everything else, lost their jobs. After some two weeks dependent on the kindness of strangers, they really want new jobs.

Kathleen Curl is a graphic artist who used to be her own boss until Katrina put her business underwater. 

“It is just weird,” says Curl, “going from owning your own business to looking for whatever you can find.”

There are job centers in shelters and fairs across the country. There are long lines of unemployed filling data banks with résumés from Atlanta to Los Angeles. In those lines, there are people like Prenee Simmons, a clerical worker for 25 years, who is willing to settle for less.

“If I can't find exactly what I want,” says Simmons, “it will be close to it.”

Employers are pitching in — offering nursing jobs in California, plumbing work in Seattle, even one company looking to hire a massage therapist from the Gulf Coast in North Dakota.

Monday in Houston, Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., was on the hunt for hotel and resort workers — airfare and housing included — for those willing to relocate.

"Let's get them housed, let's get them jobs, and get them back on their feet," says Annie Marie Delgado, who sits on the Palm Beach Gardens City Council.

Employment counselors in Texas say evacuees with skills who are willing to move anywhere are in demand. The problem, as always, is for workers with few skills.

“Employers,” says Pauline Gallien of the human resources company The Worksource, “are saying we have a little wiggle room, we can stretch and create a little opportunity.”

At this Houston job center, they interview up to 500 people every day.

Curl, who now realizes she's not going back to New Orleans soon, knows the competition is stiff. 

“I absolutely need a job,” she acknowledges. “I don't have any other means of income.”

Simmons has a few leads, but like many, she came unprepared for a job hunt. 

“I left my résumé in my desk drawer,” says Simmons. “Who'd have thought?”

Like everything else here these days, finding work calls for a little improvisation.

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