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Tami J. Algiers 09/07/05

I'm Tami J. I’m from New Orleans, Louisiana. Actually, I live in Algiers. The hardest part for me, because I live where there wasn’t any water was. I know my house is still there existing, but yet I feel like I’m homeless. Yet I am homeless, because I have two small kids and everyday they’re crying, they wanna go home, they’re ready to go home, you know. And you’re by this person and that person, and they don’t understand the full effect of not going home to their own beds and eating hot meals -- instead we’re always on the go, we’re sleeping on floors.

… I mean, we had a good life. I mean, it wasn’t...but it was good. We never went without lights, we never went hungry, we used to go into baseball practice, and having regular activities, going into Chuck E Cheese, you know, normal life for a one-year-old and a three-year-old. They’re used to going to school in the morning, you know, just having fun. And yet, I’m miserable. They don’t understand why I’m crying and it is just stressful. And today, actually, my baby just grabbed the keys and she was like, “Mommy, I’m ready to go.” You know, pulling me towards the car. And I’m like, go where? And then we stopped and got a burger to eat, and I asked my son, are you gonna eat that? He says, “I’ma wait till we get home and watch -- some cartoon.” And I’m saying in my mind, “Not really.” So, what do you do in a situation like that?

The hardest part for me, the part that I can’t stand -- I’m a taxpayer, I pay taxes. And you’re calling me a refugee. That hurts. Like hell. And like I said, I never in my life grew up in a house with millions of people. You know, I’ve always had my own room, my own, you know, my own, I was always -- just -- And then, looking at your kids filthy dirty, it’s horrible, it’s horrible. It’s just, I’m not used to looking like this. It’s just, it’s hard. You know, just to wake up and you life just changed before your eyes. And then, you know, I’m used to my family being here and there, and talking to em every day, and we are all spread out all over. You know, some are in Dallas, some are in Houston and some are in, you know, Laredo -- you know, we’re all over. It’s hard. And then, my niece, I talked to her. She was in San Antonio in a shelter in San Antonio. She was with her mom and her dad and her two brothers. She has a six month old baby. And they slept on the concrete, on top of a bridge. They waited for two days. I met a young lady in Austin and, bad as I needed the place, I referred my niece to the lady, so she gave them a house so that -- just because of my small great-niece.

You know, it has changed people’s lives forever, and a lot of people it hasn’t changed for the better. It’s for the worse. Like my father-in-law, I spoke with him. It took him like four days to be rescued. They rescued him off the top of a bridge and flew him to UNO, UNO Lakefront Airport and he stayed out there for like two days before they even came back to bring him to San Antonio.

My husband, he’s paralyzed, and he live a great distance from -- he was by his grandmother, and there’s a great distance from the Convention Center. He had to push hisself through water and everything else. It was just awful. I’m used to bringing my kids to the doctor -- we’re missing doctor’s appointments and all kind of stuff. It’s just, it’s awful. It’s like you’re really don’t know -- you know you have to do something because you have kids, but it’s like, what? Am I going to get my life back, or do I move on at this point? You know, I’m used to working!

I was in the process of buying a home. And everything is just destroyed. What do I do? I don’t know…and now I’m at the point where I have to laugh to keep from crying. It hurts, it hurts. And then, just to know that our lives are in other people’s hands. Because I know that when Florida had those hurricanes, the help was there before the hurricanes hit. And we had to wait -- the governor had to wait twenty-four hours before she could make a decision…It just made me feel like, you were waiting, you were gonna let all those unfortunate people just die. The place was just expecting us to be wiped out.

I mean, not all people are unfortunate in New Orleans, but a lot of those were left behind, most of them were. They were saying, come back on -- the ones that left out were the ones that were more fortunate. You know a lot of people were left behind because it was like the first of the month, you know, bills were due, you know, you need money to evacuate.

And that’s like now, we’re living off a credit card that has to be paid. Today, we went to Killeen, Texas, trying to get some assistance for housing and all that. Okay, they’re giving food stamps in the center, but where the hell am I gonna put the food? Give me some money to take care of my kids, give me a house where I can, you know, kind of like start over, to begin to adjust my life. I mean, food stamps, that’s no good if you don’t have a refrigerator. I cook! My kids are used to eating red beans and rice, pasta, you know, baked chicken – you know, we’re not fried chicken, McDonalds-eatin people – I cook! You know what I’m sayin? I had a family. Me and my family sat together and ate. You know, I mean, it’s just ridiculous.

Right before all of this happened, I’d been studying the Bible, reading it. In a sense it kind of makes you waive your faith, you know, is this really real, or, you know sometimes, you wish that -- I would’ve been better off if I would’ve drowned, or? This is -- we’re living in hell, pure hell, and it’s just unfair. It’s just unfair to me. I mean, I have so much unfinished business in New Orleans, that -- will it ever get tooken care of? Will the pieces ever get put together? Will I be spending the rest of my life living in the past? You know, what? Where do I go from here? Where do my children go from here? And as you see, my kids are very intelligent kids. Where do we go from here? You know, now, you know, do I have to raise my kids sleeping on a bench or living in our car hoping that somebody assists me, gives me some kinda help? I mean, where do we go from here? I just feel like, the government has really, really failed us. It’s just unreal.

I wish I had the time that I can write a book. If I had a home, maybe I could sit down and write one. Because this is ridiculous. I just couldn’t imagine. You know, to be honest, I didn’t even think that there were that many people in New Orleans. That’s ridiculous. I mean, people had to wait six to seven days to be rescued? It’s ridiculous. I mean, what was it when they were overseas with the tsunami -- I mean, water was being dropped down, and I mean, what happened?

And it hurts me because, like I said, I’m a more fortunate person. I had money, or whatever, to get away -- but like I said, it just ran out. So, now, where do you go? You were thinking you were leaving for two to three days, and that it’s turned into months and maybe years. I mean, my kids doesn’t have any clothes and we going to Red Cross and they ran out of vouchers to give you to buy clothing…And then it’s a thing, they’re giving you clothing from Wal-Mart, which I love Wal-Mart, I shop at Wal-Mart all the time, but how can you give me a voucher to tell me where to spend money? I mean, it’s just funny. I mean, yeah, food stamps, it does help, but if you had a house to put it in. A refrigerator to put it in and a stove to cook it on. I mean, if you can give all these people food stamps at the drop of a dime like that, then you can supply some housing or some money -- it’s just, I don’t know -- I feel like they’re treating us like we’re a third-world county.

And just to think, New Orleans. That’s the city to have fun -- Mardi Gras. People come from all over the world to visit us, and this was our hometown that we’ve just been stripped of. I don’t know, but I really don’t think that, excuse me, that they were thinkin’ that it was that many people were going to survive. I strongly feel like they left us there to die. They left us there to die. Because just now, Houston is overpopulated…it’s unreal. Honestly, do they think people supposed to live in the shelters for al these months, and bills going undone? How can it happen?

And that’s just like with me now. I’m used to paying my bills on time. Credit card bill is the last thing on my mind, but I know eventually if I don’t pay it I won’t be able to use it again, and that’s what I’m depending on at this point, my credit card.

Then my employer there says, you can come back to work. But what I’m gonna do with my kids? All these parishes there, there’s no nurseries, no daycare, no schools open, well what I’m gonna do? So it’s like, you’re damned if you do, you’re damned if you don’t?

First, I need a home. Like I’ve said, they’ve given you food stamps but everything else has just been the runaround. We went to Red Cross, they ran out of vouchers. We’re wearing the same old clothes. They’re promising you things, but then when you get there, it’s gone, They ran out, or…

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