NEW ORLEANS — Seventy-five-year-old Gigi Brown finally made it home, crying as she entered her trailer for the first time since Hurricane Katrina.
“Terrible,” she said. “Nothing is to be salvaged. I don't know what to say. I don't know what to do.”
She's all alone and searching for a link to her past: a doll her sister gave her before she passed away.
“There she is. Ain’t she beautiful? She still look good. Look at this,” Brown sobs, “I was hoping to find it, you know?”
It's small comfort for a victim still waiting for a place to call home.
“Maybe FEMA, maybe, might help me out to get my life back, maybe, to get another little trailer?” Brown asks. “That's what they said they would [do].”
Some 500 people a day in Louisiana apply for FEMA trailers. The federal government estimates as many as 400,000 may be eligible.
Why is it going so slowly?
“You have to first remove debris,” explains FEMA’s Mark Misczak. “You have to restore power, you have to make sure there's appropriate levy protection. A lot of things that are still ongoing.”
So far, only 12,000 of the 25,000 promised FEMA trailers are up and running, leaving so many, like Arthur Washington, to just scrape by.
“We need a place to live,” Washington says. “Look where we living.”
Washington and his Ninth Ward neighbors say they're on a trailer waiting list, but three months after Katrina, they still have nothing. What does he make of FEMA at this point?
“It's a joke, it's a joke to me,” he says. “It's just a cluster mess-up.”
Eighty-nine-year-old Enola Merchadal, who sleeps in a car these days, says when she calls FEMA, it's always a runaround.
“It may be three months, six months, I don't know. Might be less, might be more," Merchadal says. “That's all they tell me, ‘I got you on file. We'll see that you get one.’ Yeah, Christmas is coming, too.”
It may be a holiday season, but here there are few reasons to celebrate.
“It's hard, and I can tell you that,” says Merchadal. “It's hard.”