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Evictions increase in Katrina’s wake

In New Orleans, rent is due from thousands of tenants, many of whom were displaced by Hurricane Katrina and have left their homes and their possessions in a state of limbo. For a large number of them, rent hasn't been paid since the storm, and landlords are moving in to move tenants out officially. NBC's Ron Mott reports.
/ Source: NBC News correspondent

Charles Wilson of Jefferson Parish is directing a scene playing out across the bayou. He's a constable and he's evicting tenants who haven't paid rent.

Pre-Katrina he was doing one a week. Today he's got 10.

As moldy furniture is carted out — the owners apparently long gone — Wilson says, “The sad part is, in most cases, this is all that a person owns. It's everything.”

Jacqueline Caston and her three kids are leaving — not because they want to, but because the relatives who leased their apartment left and stopped paying rent. Now Caston has no place to go. 

“It's very frustrating,” she says, especially when you have children.

The landlord of her property, and many others soon to have a heap of someone’s belongings on the curb, says the real tragedy of these evictions is that homes and apartments with relatively minor damage have sat empty for the past two months while countless families sit stuck in shelters or even tents.

Landlord Tom Brooks says, “This weekend we had 70 calls,” and he can't delay evictions any longer.

But lawyers trying to protect tenants say some landlords' motives are less than noble.

“It does not rebuild New Orleans,” says Loyola University Law Professor Bill Quigley, “to take property that belongs to somebody, put it out on the street, fix the property up, and then rent it at a very high rate.”

As Jacqueline Caston and her family prepare to hit the streets, Charles Wilson heads to the next eviction — doing his job the only way he knows how.