IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Katrina evacuees strain Houston’s services

As communities across the country adapt to swelling populations due to Hurricane Katrina, the growing pains may be most acute in Houston. NBC's Janet Shamlian reports.

Dorothy Stukes feels the welcome mat Houston rolled out after Katrina has been pulled from under her — replaced with profane graffiti.

“I came out one day and I saw Houston Gardens, (expletive) New Orleans,” Stukes says.

She was among the hundreds of thousands who arrived after Katrina and slept in the Astrodome as the city managed one of the biggest shelter operations in the nation's history.

Houston welcomed thousands of New Orleans evacuees who are now permanent residents. With children in the city's schools, they also depend on the city's hospitals and emergency services.

Six months later, with 150,000 new residents, there are the inevitable growing pains.

Before Katrina, the city already had thousands of uninsured residents. Now, there's even more.

Call volume for Houston's emergency medical services is up nine percent.

“A lot of sick calls,” says Capt. Lamont Cline with the Houston Fire Department. “A lot of sick children, ladies that need rides to the hospital because they're pregnant and it's time to have their babies.”

CPR cases are up 34 percent since Katrina, compared to the three months before the storm. And it's not just medical facilities. The schools are packed. 

“It is taking every resource we have in the public schools,” says Texas Education Commissioner Shirley Neeley.

The stress is exposing itself through scuffles, as current students make room for more.

“It's hard on all of us,” says Westbury High School senior Jaylishia Jennings. “The people from Houston and the people who are from New Orleans.”

The problems are magnified by a mounting price tag. Houston's mayor, who emerged as the face of compassion after Katrina, is still waiting for promised federal aid.

“We'd like FEMA to be as responsive to Houston,” says Mayor Bill White, “as Houston was to America.”

Dorothy Stukes understands the frustration, but asks her new neighbors to imagine hers. “Houston, please, just be patient with us,” she says. “We don't have anywhere to go.”

Houston is a city fatigued in the aftermath of a crisis and now needing some first-aid of its own.