Katrina survivors reflect on their time at FEMA trailer park

By Keitha Nelson - bio | email

BAKER, LA (WAFB) - On the five year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, a couple who lost their home in the storm is reflecting on their time spent living in a Baker FEMA trailer park.

Renaissance Village, the state's largest FEMA trailer park, housed more than 2,000 Katrina evacuees. It closed in 2007.

For one family that lived there, the struggle to reclaim their lives continues. James and Jeanne Walker on Saturday strolled past the gates of Renaissance Village.

"C24 -- I'll never forget that for the rest of my life," James Waller said.

Waller said he will never forget their former trailer number, C24. They called the place home for two years after Katrina.

Waller said the small, cramped trailer was initially a God send. He, his wife, and then-teenage son lived there.

Before Renaissance Village, the Wallers stayed at the River Center for six weeks. James said that experience was disgusting.

"You go in the rest room to wipe your face and brush your teeth, and you couldn't do it because people were urinating in the sink," he said.

With their own trailer and some privacy, the Wallers, who have been married for 23 years, say they were grateful to move.

"We were like a big family here," James said. "We had to stick together because we didn't have anybody to push for us."

But the warm feeling of unified days quickly turned into long, restless nights. People started to get frustrated.

He said many people struggled with having no job, transportation, money or freedom.

"It was like a jail," he said. "You had a fence around you. You had security guards around you. You were being watched 24/7. You couldn't do anything. You didn't have anywhere else to go. You had to make it here."

The New Orleans natives now live in an apartment in Baker. They say they have no intentions of moving back to the Crescent City.

"What I saw Easter Sunday made me sick," he said. "People were still walking the streets. It really makes me sick to go into my old neighborhood and watch the place go down."

The Wallers say they are better off in Baker

"We finally got a truck and all that," James said. "We're not rich but we're making it."

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