May 22nd, 2009
08:59 PM ET

A teenager's life – still in a FEMA trailer

Sean Callebs
CNN Gulf Bureau Correspondent

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.l.cnn.net/cnn/2007/US/08/29/katrina.twocities/art.trailer.jpg]

The trailers are not supposed to be there.. In fact, the last of them are supposed to go away by the end of May.  And many people are making the transition from trailers back into homes. But some people say they still need these trailers, and are fighting to keep them. 

"It's scary because I could become homeless," says Patsy Robin, who lives in a trailer with her daughter Carly.

Carly has spent her teenage years living in that trailer. Can you imagine the teenage girls you know being asked to live in 200 cramped square feet with their mom.  Teens want privacy, some space.  Carly hasn't gotten any:

"Some dances, homecoming dances, i have gotten ready in a trailer. It was not fun," Carly tells me. "I dont really invite friends over because it is so small."

Carly flew in a Blackhawk helicopter before she ever flew on an airplane.  The military evacuated her and her mom, five days after the levees gave way.  That trip made a big impression on Carly.  She wants to join the Air Force. 

 Why haven't they been able to find a new home over four years?  Many people think that should be plenty of time. But here's the problem:

 Patsy Robin says contractors took her 45-thousand dollars and left town.  I have no trouble believing that.  It is amazing how many people in New Orleans were ripped off months after fighting the government and insurance companies for money.   And government red tape has made it impossible, she says, to get a new home. 

 The only reason the Robins have a prayer of moving back into a house is that they reached out to the St. Bernard Project.  The non-profit has helped rebuild more than 215 homes.  Project co-founder Zack Rosenburg says “No one wants to live in a FEMA trailer.”

Filed under: 360° Radar
soundoff (35 Responses)
  1. Ashley

    Thanks FEMA for all you're help!! NOT!!!! Ohhh, a FEMA trailer, didn't they contain formaldyhyde? It's been close to 4 years, for god sakes, give them some money, to get their life going again, put them up in a hotel, help them move in with relatives if they can. Anything to get out of those lousy trailers!!!

    Eddie: You recieved $300? That's it?? What the hell is that?

    The Bush Admistration couldn't respond to any natural disaster.

    May 25, 2009 at 12:52 pm |
  2. pierre

    I don't think I'll ever get back to old beat down New Orleans no time soon.Quality of life is better in other parts of the country ,time for somebody to tell the truth now.i've resided in Slidell, la. city right next door to there and its better,metarie .la and all surrounding areas are better . why's that.poor blacks seem to no nothing better i witness this for over 30 or some odd years of my life time.time to clean it up, but i doubt that, certain people are making a great living off of the down troddin' impoverish uneducated individuals that's a fixed in their life styles there.when will they wake up ,poor no nothing black folks , i'm black so don't get it twisted.

    May 25, 2009 at 7:41 am |
  3. Cari

    Just so very sad. Government?? Please step in. Exteme Makeover Home Edition?? Can you step in? All these people need is a small house to call home.

    May 24, 2009 at 10:33 pm |
  4. lynn

    What is really mind blowing is that no one who has the power to change this cares as is the case in so many stories of injustice and travesty that we read about every day. The every day working class citizen cares deeply about what these families have been through and we can voice our disgust but we don't have the power to change it.........or do we?

    May 24, 2009 at 10:30 pm |
  5. Paige DePoe

    What have we become as people? This screams blatant insensitivity and regard for fellow human beings! What has turned us into an unfeeling, uncaring mass of opportunists who lay in wait for the next down-trodden victim to rip-off as we exploit their misery ? What has turned us into "As long as it isn't ME, I don't care" people?
    We may be gaining in other areas, yet we are failing in the simplicity of brotherhood.

    May 24, 2009 at 3:15 pm |
  6. shawn P

    People complain about welfare, this is an example why we have welfare. If the rich and churches would do the right thing and trully help the poor and displaced. We would not need welfare.

    May 24, 2009 at 1:01 pm |
  7. dmcarm

    Every evil produces a good. This teenage girl will become a success because of what she's learning from this misery. And she will have a happy marriage because she will be strong and resilient. She is not the whiny, self indulgent, teen who wants it all right now. She won't have the entitlement mentality.
    As for making the rich pay, why don't you spend your own money instead of dictating how other should spend theirs. Plenty of the rich have stepped up to donate, build homes, feed the needy, fund scholarships. What have you given lately, besides your empty headed suggestions on how to spend money that isn't yours. Get a job, become a success, and then tell others who want to spend your check to do the same.

    May 24, 2009 at 12:56 pm |
  8. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    Louisiana and Texas are in the hurricane season and living in at this time is the worst place to be. It's unfortunate that this family can't stay here but it might save their lives to leave and perhaps get an apartment. Meanwhile, I will pray for them.

    May 24, 2009 at 12:40 pm |
  9. Trevor

    such an upside down world. the concept of residential real estate as a capitalist commodity is a travesty to humanity. this is a disgusting example of how opportunity favors the fortunate.

    simply heart breaking

    May 23, 2009 at 11:39 pm |
  10. Daniel

    Welcome to the Capitalistic States of America. The distribution of wealth is so horribly lopsided. Your tax money will also eventually be given to these big companies so their executives can continue to enjoy the same quality of living. ALL WELCOME OUR NEW CORPORATE MASTERS!

    May 23, 2009 at 10:27 pm |
  11. Vivyanne

    This is so sad. But my question is why so much red tape? Did the mother go after the contractor who left with her money? Will she be able to be reimbursed?
    I kthat we have millions of dollars in waste that we spend every day. Why is it so difficult for the have nots to have? We need to check our motives and see what Jesus would do. Even though he said the poor will always be with us, he also made it our responsibility for us to do everything we can to teach them how to fish and be self sufficient. I think this is a great time for our government to set up contracts and open the door to jobs in Louisana and Missisippi rebuilding the communities. Cna you inagine the jobs that would be created? Thousands.But the dream has to start from the head and work down. Minnority industries and women should get the contracts first and then "the good ole white boys".We must have honest accountability and equailty in all that we do. But then how can we do that wnen we built America on lies, betrayal and thievery? The past seems to follow us and until we follow God's way of thinking we are always going to be in trouble.

    May 23, 2009 at 10:19 pm |
  12. Laura

    800 billion dollars to bail out companies that caused the economic disaster we are in right now. Another 4 billion to GM. CEO bonuses in the millions, CEO salaries in the millions, athletes and actors making millions per year in salary and millions more for signing bonuses and we can't figure out how to help people in more than 4 years? What is the matter with this country? And to think that I should be proud to call myself American. Not today...not in a long while.

    May 23, 2009 at 8:02 pm |
  13. Towanda

    This is sad that things like this happen in the USA. Like someone said we have all of these wealthy people here that are not doing anything to assist. Now granted alot of people have contributed but not the government. We are always sending money to help other countries when they have natural disasters, but not the people in our own backyard. I was watching "Trouble the Water" on HBO and I was troubled myself, watching the elderly just left on the side of the rode dead. And seeing that hundreds of people died in the hospital because our president at the time didn't deem it necessary to move them. Also the prisoners living outside of the prison, with no food or water for days. What happened to the money that everybody donated? Why is Brad Pitt the only person trying to help OUR PEOPLE?

    May 23, 2009 at 5:20 pm |
  14. Greg Seal

    People wake up. Where did the money come from? Was it a handout from the government? Would you give a contractor 45,000 dollars up front? A great deal of these people did not own a home before the storm. If you had lived rent free for 4 years couldn't you have money put aside to start over? I have seen for myself the money handed out that is still being wasted!

    May 23, 2009 at 3:11 pm |
  15. Tracie

    This makes me ashamed of the country I live in. The wealthy have continued to benefit while the lower income suffer more and more every day. Amazingly $200,000 is what some people in this country spend on their kids birthday party. The next time they spend 25 or 30 grand on a cloths shopping spree maybe they should consider what that amount of money would mean to someone in their own backyard.

    May 23, 2009 at 2:25 pm |
  16. Tammy, Berwick, LA

    Those needing housing might want to contact the Jericho Road Project sponsored by the Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana. Jericho Road helps those with lower incomes to own a home in New Orleans. It's amazing what this project has done to help people get on their feet again after this storm. No one for a second should believe New Orleans is at 100%. The needs are still there. People from all walks of life still have the scars of Katrina. There is still so much work to be done.

    May 23, 2009 at 12:10 pm |
  17. Rob

    I think it's horrible people are still in trailers but what I think is horrible is that people are willing to do that and the taxpayers are footing the bill. There comes a time when people have to stand on their own two feet. So, the house is lost. The situation isn't worse because it was the result of a hurricane than anyone's loss of a home because of fire, flood, foreclosure or loss of a lease. People who will live on what the government provides without being willing to participate in their own recovery have no arguement. How much money could the rest of the population save up over time if the government paid our housing and utilites!

    May 23, 2009 at 10:36 am |
  18. Dave

    You know, they were given FREE rent for how many years now? Has she not been working, has she not been saving.

    I'm sorry, but government assistance should not be a way of life, it should be exactly that...assistance!!

    Get out of the trailer, into an apartment, into a house, or into a shelter.

    Are we going to start handing out trailers to all of the people who's houses were foreclosed on?

    May 23, 2009 at 10:11 am |
  19. Mike, Syracuse, NY

    Rebuilding a home below sea level again is just insane. Over it's history New Orleans has flooded dozens of times and will flood again. The entire portion of the city that is below sea level either needs to be raised or abandoned. The US taxpayers should not subsidize stupidity. Nature wins over man every time.

    May 23, 2009 at 8:15 am |
  20. charlene sjoberg

    I went traveling through New Orleans in November or 2007. I was very shocked to see all of the trailers that were still there! It actually looked like the hurricane had just happened recently with all the damage that I saw. Thanks Mr. Cooper for bringing this story to light again. After all these years, everyone, including me, thought that this incredible situation has STILL not been dealt with! This is embarrassing for the U.S. Very sad.

    May 23, 2009 at 4:14 am |
  21. Joyce

    4 years living rent free!?! Surely she has been able to save up something to move into apartment or anything on her own. The government already gave her $45,000 that she lost to a shady contractor. How about doing a little research? And who pays all up front? Sounds suspicious to me. Now she is expecting more handouts? I'm confused, isn't America the land of opportunity if you WORK for it? I grew up dirt poor and worked my whole life to get where I am today. People expecting the government to be their free ride make me sick.

    May 23, 2009 at 2:37 am |
  22. Jeff

    Four years seems like plenty enough time to find permanent housing in all but the most extreme cases. I'm sorry some of these people made arrangements with disreputable contractors, but unfortunately, dishonesty happens. The government has no responsibility to make good for the dishonesty of a contractor, no matter how sad the circumstances. I'm a bleeding heart liberal Democrat, but the government is not a charity. It would be nice if one of these "victims" thanked the government or its citizens for four years of free housing instead of complaining about how it's not enough.

    May 23, 2009 at 1:51 am |
  23. Heidi Ann Berg

    What would it hurt FEMA to give them another year for those who need it

    May 22, 2009 at 11:51 pm |
  24. Sylvia

    all the money that was been sent overseas under the previous administration to fight war, should have gone to those people who have suffered after Karina, so so sad!!!

    May 22, 2009 at 11:50 pm |
  25. Carol

    I had a different disaster mine was from oil field operations poisioning my water well, and the situations that we suffered in like kind to them, but there was no hellicopers to take us away, I understand how alone and tortured you feel, how your world has been turned upside down, and what has to be lost to survive, my son and grandkids have suffered what you have suffered, concerning friends coming over and humiliation of the circumstance. Hang in there, soon we will be free from the bondage of disaster soon keep the faith sister.

    May 22, 2009 at 11:32 pm |
  26. Tracer

    Bottom Line: Asbestos provided from Government Program (Fema)

    May 22, 2009 at 10:56 pm |
  27. Eddie

    I lost my house in hurrican Ivan and got a wopping $300 from FEMA..
    The people from Katrina should count thier blessings that FEMA through out all the written policies because they would not be able to live in hotels for five years and the trailers were not givin to the people to live in as a permanant residence. In fact, the trailers are property of the US government.

    May 22, 2009 at 10:40 pm |
  28. Susan

    I know everyone has their challenges, but four years is a long time to be a victim. Our government makes people helpless.

    May 22, 2009 at 10:26 pm |
  29. Scott

    This is disgusting. I live in New Zealand and cannot imagine what these people have to live through. Given your country's wealth, this isn't good enough.

    May 22, 2009 at 10:08 pm |
  30. Nancy C.

    I agree with everything the previous person said. This should not be happening in the United States. Isn't there some sort of Victim's Assistance Program that could have helped her with some of the funds? I live in coastal NC in an area that is also prone to hurricanes. Somehow, I cannot picture that happening here. We've had bad hurricanes in NC, nothing like the suffering in LA, but when half of your state is flooded, it's bad. NC managed, with the help of FEMA and others to recover in less than a year. I'm sure many people were impacted personally for longer than that, but to my knowledge we had no one living in FEMA housing longer than that if that long. These are the forgotten Americans. We need to do something to make sure our government officials remember that they are still there.

    May 22, 2009 at 10:07 pm |
  31. nathanonline

    This is horrible. I second Marie's sentiments; there's absolutely no reason for this to be a problem. We need to start realizing there is no "them" just an "us" in this world.

    May 22, 2009 at 10:05 pm |
  32. Mary

    And people wonder why it taking so long to rebuild the city and lives. It could happen to me one day, home wiped out. I hope that family gets a home soon. This is tragic story.

    May 22, 2009 at 10:02 pm |
  33. Nancy Morales

    Thanks for sharing this with all of us and making us aware of the situation. Itemized bills of where the monies were spent is always good to have and make sure that monies go where suppose to.

    I wish no one had to endure such situations...but mother nature has earthquakes, tornados and we mankind need to make sure levies are strong enough and that no one can manipulate levies or get to them. It's just a security thing to make sure that levies are not approchable by just someone walking up and levies strength tested at least once a year.

    Nancy Morales
    San Antonio Texas

    May 22, 2009 at 9:54 pm |
  34. Marie

    Oh my God! This is so sad. This should not be happening here in the United States. We have enough wealthy people in this country to help every person/family who is a victim of Katrina. $200,000 is a mere drop in the bucket for the truly wealthy. These people should be helped.

    May 22, 2009 at 9:16 pm |