Hurricane Katrina

Frustration, but also hope


Even now, more than eight months after Katrina, there's a steady stream of people filing into the Lakeshore Baptist Church distribution center in search of water, food, clothing, bedding and school supplies.

"How you doing?" a volunteer asked a local resident stocking up on supplies.

"Hanging in there. And saying a little prayer every day. It's all we can do," said the resident.

The distribution center generally serves about 300 to 350 people a day. The number has increased in recent months, as more and more once-displaced residents return to live here, either in FEMA trailers on their property or in one of several FEMA trailer communities located nearby.

But stumbling blocks abound.

"I'm really disgusted with my insurance company. I haven't gotten anything. And I can't do nothing about rebuilding until I find out what they're going to do," said one local resident who has lived in Lakeshore for more than 60 years.

And though volunteers from around the country still travel here to pitch in, their numbers have decreased.

Louanna Wheeler, who lives about five minutes from the distribution center, remains frustrated that FEMA denied her request for a larger trailer.

"They told me to make do with what I got," said Wheeler, 51, whose husband is disabled, daughter has cancer, and who is raising four of her daughter's six children on an income of less than $1,000 a month.

Nevertheless, Wheeler remains optimistic about Lakeshore's recovery.

Adam Metz, 35, a commercial fisherman whose father owns Bob's Crabs on Lakeshore Drive, and who lost everything he owns, said in March the company shipped about 80,000 pounds of blue crabs, "about the same as this time last year."

But the company lost about 60 percent of its retail market, made up of residents who used to live, or own homes, in the surrounding area.

"It'll come back," said Metz.

What Katrina did

Areas near Lakeshore Baptist Church and a school, Gulfview Elementary, were left in disrepair, with houses destroyed, heavily damaged or, in many cases, moved completely off their foundations.

The series

The Sun Herald this month continues its 30 Communities in 30 Days series, which looks at how area neighborhoods are recovering from Hurricane Katrina. We will update these stories every six months.