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Slow Recovery in New Orleans Six Months After Hurricane Katrina


Across New Orleans' devastated neighborhoods, there is widespread sentiment that the city and its victims have been forgotten.

"It's six months since the storm, more should be happening,” said homeowner Al Hardouin. “It's six months, look around you, look at the house, look at the streets, look at the city. They are still not getting the message. I think they're starting to be forgotten about."

Mr. Hardouin got a government-funded trailer to live in three weeks ago and hopes to move back into his home in a year. He is one of the lucky ones whose house will not have to be torn down.

Others weren't as lucky. Thousands of families had to move out of hotel rooms in New Orleans after government funds ran out.

Kenneth Alfre, a construction worker, was helping to rebuild his hometown. But now, with no place to stay, he's leaving. "They keep saying that want the city rebuilt. How are you going to rebuild the city, if you're sending all your workers… all the workers have to leave again?"

Families are being offered 18 months of rental assistance, which could be used to extend their hotel stay. But many say they have not received the money or it is not enough.

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin continues to be highly critical of the federal response. "You know, I've gone past the point of upset now. I think the truth is coming out now. We needed help and we just did not get the timely help."

Despite the problems, there are many signs New Orleans is springing back to life. The Superdome sports stadium, which held thousands of evacuees during Hurricane Katrina, is in the process of being repaired. Although most hospitals remain closed, one of the city's biggest medical centers is now taking in patients.

On the waterfront, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is working hard to restore the levees in New Orleans before the hurricane season begins in three months. Restaurants are reviving. The convention center, along with one of the city's largest casinos, just re-opened, luring back tourists.

And although the crowds are much smaller than in past years, spectators such as Barbie Corte are in the famous French Quarter taking part in Mardi Gras -- an annual festival before the Christian fast of Lent.

"It helps to send a message out there that we're rebuilding, that we're coming back and the city. It's a tradition of the city, and this is a very traditional city, and I think it's important to keep the tradition," she said over the noise of a parade.

It will take enormous amounts of money to bring the city back. Recently, Louisiana's governor, Kathleen Blanco, detailed the state's first comprehensive plan to provide assistance for ruined homes. But it will not be enough, and depends on billions more federal dollars being approved by Congress.

While many say it is helpful government officials are investigating what went wrong during Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans' resident Linda Anderson is more concerned about the future.

"I think if they want to make a game plan to make people comfortable, then they need to be looking ahead. It's right to look back, but they need to be working right now," she said.

And if the past six months are any gauge, it will take everyone a long time to put New Orleans back together again.

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