When Mary Mays arrives home from her accounting job in Houston, she keeps counting. She has 44 guests in her five-bedroom house — four generations from the family tree and a few of their friends from New Orleans, too — all under one roof.
“How do we manage? Very carefully,” says Mays.
They share the cooking and eat in shifts. Each family has a laundry day. The washer and dryer never stop running.
There are at least 15 children in the house, enough to filed their own football team.
“How is the family doing? We're doing pretty good,” says Mary’s mom, 73-year-old Lucille Goodon, whose house in New Orleans is near the 17th Street Canal that broke.
Goodon talks about how the family rode out Hurricane Katrina at her home. But when the levees broke and the water rose, they escaped by boat and then piled into the back of a truck and drove 11 hours to Houston.
“I've always tried to get them people out of Louisiana,” says Mays, “but I didn't think it was gonna be all at one time.”
It is hectic, loud and frustrating trying to find new homes while waiting for help from FEMA.
“The hardest part,” says Mary’s brother, Lionel Thomas, “is just not knowing what's going to happen the next day.”
Then, just this past weekend, all of a sudden everything changed.
In California, Therese and John Finnegan read about Mary's family of 44 on the Web site www.KatrinaHousing.org.
“Looking at how difficult and how enormous this is,” says Therese Finnegan. “We thought we felt that we could just do a little bit.”
The Finnegans will rent nine homes for Mary's relatives — all close by.
Edward and Shakoka Allen will have three bedrooms, just in time for a new addition to the family.
“October eighth supposedly, but it's any day now,” says Shakoka.
A family that came together and survived the storm has had their prayers answered. They're sleeping easier now, on air mattresses covering every inch of the floor.