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Rising from Ruin is an on-going MSNBC.com special report chronicling two coastal Mississippi towns, Bay St. Louis and Waveland, as they rebuild after Hurricane Katrina.

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BAY ST. LOUIS, Miss. -- Life has hung Linda Addison out to dry like the torn and twisted pieces of fabric still snagged in the high branches of the oak trees here, two years after they were carried aloft by Katrina’s howling winds.

In a 250-square-foot plain white box amid rows of identical FEMA trailers on a bare gravel lot on the western edge of this rebuilding town, Linda sits and quietly tells her story.

Listen carefully because Linda’s pitiful predicament is shared in one way or another by thousands of hurricane refugees who are still living in FEMA trailers without the resources to regain the small shreds of independence they enjoyed before the storm. While a million volunteers and billions in grant money flow to many residents who owned property before the storm and the booming recovery economy blesses others with new fortunes, Linda and those like her are being left in the dust.

“It’s a very sad situation,” says Reilly Morse, an attorney with the Mississippi Center for Justice. “It’s one of 17,000 or 18,000 tales of woe out there.”

In the summer of 2005, Linda and her poodle Trixie were happily keeping house in a one-bedroom apartment a few miles away in neighboring Waveland. Her $643 monthly Social Security disability check was just enough for her to pay the $109 a month rent on her federally subsidized place, keep an old car running and indulge in her only vice: Coca-Cola.

By some standards, it wasn’t much of a life, but it was hers. She could get to church when she wanted, take a few ceramics classes at the senior center and host grandson Dustin, 11, and granddaughter Hannah, 5, the children of her only child, on weekend visits from Gulfport. She could look forward instead of backward on three marriages that had twice left her a widow – the first time when she was just 22 -- and once a divorcee, and on a lifetime of toil in the retail sector in which “I sold everything but fast food and my body” before winding up disabled in 2002 at age 60 with spine, hip, thyroid and blood-pressure problems.

Then came Katrina. She fled to Bogalusa, La., with a neighbor and returned to find that water had filled her ground-floor unit to the rafters. “When we tried to open the door, honey, my couch was in front of the door, the refrigerator on its side,” Linda recalls in her soft, lilting voice.

Looters add to storm's toll

The horror mounted. Within days, looters had taken everything of value from her apartment except “a few pictures and my Bibles.” She found space to live in a tent in Clermont Harbor, west of town. Night after night, she struggled to sleep in the stifling summer air, kept awake by the screams of what she thought was a lost or injured cat. It was a woman, trapped in the debris, later rescued.

By March, Linda had found some stability, moving in with her only sibling, a younger brother, and his wife, in Oakridge, Tenn. One night as they watched television, her brother clutched his chest and died. “I’ll never forget it,” she says, choking with tears. “I held his little face up and his wife called 911. As far as we knew, he didn’t have heart trouble.” Jim Jones was 47.

When FEMA found her a trailer later in the spring of 2006, she moved back to Hancock County, which is where she now awaits word on permanent housing. There is no public or subsidized housing available, most of it destroyed by the storm, programs to replace it barely in the planning stages. Market-rate rentals are cruelly beyond her reach.

She has heard of several possibilities from FEMA representatives, all of them daunting. “What scares me is they’re saying they’re going to put us up at the end of Highway 603 in Picayune,” she says. With gas as high as it is, she wonders how she could afford to drive back to see her doctor, whose office is across the street from the park she lives in now. Also, she hears that drugs, prostitution and other crime, problems where she lives now, are worse at the Picayune park.

Mainly, it’s the uncertainty that plagues her. Its surroundings aside, the trailer, cool and comfortable on a hot August morning, with its handicapped entry ramp, is working out well for her and Trixie. But what’s next? And when?

“Two people could call FEMA and ask five people the same question and they’d get 10 different answers,” says Linda. “I’m really afraid of the next day. People talk about seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. I don’t see the tunnel.”

A FEMA representative took Addision’s name from MSNBC.com and agreed to seek some answers about her case and the general fate of those like her, but did not call back. On the agency’s Web site, a recent entry explains that FEMA will be handing off cases like Linda’s to the Department of Housing and Urban Development as of Nov. 1.

'She's out of luck'

Attorney Morse fears some people will get lost in that shuffle. “She’s out of luck. She’s the lowest priority and every program that is out there is at least six to 12 months away,” Morse says. “What’s going to happen with these folks is anyone’s guess. I don’t think it’s alarmist at all to say people could become homeless.”

Local Habitat for Humanity Project Manager Wendy McDonald, who brought Linda’s plight to MSNBC.com’s attention, also has no solution. Linda’s income is way too low to qualify her for the sweat-equity home-building program. “Even if I gave her a home, she could not afford the insurance,” says McDonald, who was able to get a volunteer advocate working on Linda’s behalf.

That advocate, Mick Quinlan, is looking at FEMA’s “Mississippi Cottage” program, which places trailer occupants into more permanent housing for another two years, but the program selects participants at random.

Linda is a proud woman who is not going to dwell on just how poor she is, but you do the math: $643 a month is $148.38 a week, not even two-thirds of the federal minimum wage for a full-time worker and well below half the minimum wage in many states. It’s $7,716 a year, hopelessly beneath the federal poverty level of $10,210 for a single person.

While you’re at it, consider these price tags of irony that surround Linda as the recovery steams forward for others. Across the street, a liquor store sells bottles of wine that cost more than what she lives on for a week. Within a few hundred yards of where Linda’s trailer sits, pleasure boats are being sold for well more than 10 times her annual income. A mile away as the crow flies, multimillion dollar mansions are rising, Phoenix-like, on Beach Boulevard.

And as appalling and sad as it is, you probably won’t be surprised that, for Linda, it adds up to this: “Sometimes I wish I had stayed here for the storm and then it would all be over.”

If you would like to help Linda Addison, checks made out to "Benefit of Linda Addison" may be mailed to Hancock Bank, 601 Highway 90, Bay St. Louis, Miss., 39520, or taken to any branch of the bank in person. Other offers of help may be made through the Bay St. Louis office of Habitat for Humanity at 228-467-9699.

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230 COMMENTS

At the age of 59, I'm sorry to say it has become embarassing to be an American. When we waste Billions of dollars in Iraq & our brave young peoples lives while 2 years after Katrina thousands are without hope. The past 7 yrs of Bush rule is the worst I have seen in my 59 years. Hopefully, in Jan 2009 we will have a new President that truly cares about the common people.

It's ridiculous that people in Iraq are getting our money and that our ignorant President Bush is requesting another 50 Billion for the Iraq war. Yet, in our own country poverty is rampant and victims of natural distaters in an ill-prepared city are left to fend for themselves with no guidance. As a former Hurricane Andrew survivor, I can tell you that it takes years for a city to get back to 'normal'. Yet, the situation in New Orleans seems to be exponentially worse given the weak economy and weak voice of the local and state governments. Good luck to this poor victim and others ... it's really sad that our government has left them behind and that President Bush speeches LIE about recovery!

This is the time for all those so called do-gooders from hollywood to take stock in what is really important. Let's build some low income housing and place these good people in proper homes. Then there is plenty of time to help those who really don't need it as bad and get your TV news time. Linda is a tribute to a true american, who just wants to make it on her own.

This juist goes to show no one is prepred for these storms. you live half a mile from a large river or the ocean, you need to know this can happen to you. despite any income, if you don't want this to happen to you, get away from the flood and hurricane prone areas, because as sad as this is,no goverment or charitable program will keep it from happening again. as we all know by now, it is not if it will happen again, but when.

I live on the Outer Banks, NC where we get our share of hurricanes.Several years back we got slammed by Dennis twice and Floyd immediately followed.My dear freinds lost everything in flooding.Other friends 2 hours inland got flooded, lost everything.They still haven't received FEMA aid (about 5 years later) and they have cleaned, and tried to rebuild on community support.They are not rich villages-all hard working fishing community. Up in Philly and around DC they flooded too.Funny how when I went to Philly things were fine like nothing ever happened.

My advice, lean to your own community and family for support. Make the effort to change & improve your life yourself. Don't ask for the government, they'll send the money to "the money" and leave you in mosquito infested water w/o shelter. I know, I've lived it.

This administration has no regard for the citizens of America who are living below the poverty level. While Bush is asking for blood money to support a war with no ending in a country that does not want our help,why not help our own! It has been 2 years & lets face it, New Orleans will never rebuild the areas where the most of the poor lived. They do not want them to come back & won't assist them unless it would have been done by now. If they could renovate the Superdome so football games can be played they could have rebuilt 1,000's of homes. Shame on the government & this administration for leaving Katrina victims hanging in the wind. Why is it we can always help other countries but not our own.......look how long it took just to get them food & water. Katrina survivors better look to the heavens not the government & help each other move forward.

What is truly sad is the welfare babies that spend their entire lives milking the system, having multiple babies out of wedlock and living for free when they are capable of working. This woman worked her whole life and didn't ask for handouts and now she is stuck. I truly will pray she gets assistance. This is the type of person that deserves it after a life of working.

After watching some of the abuse of the contractors and government overseers and government officials I find it just appalling not only for this victim but for the city as a whole. When are the tax paying citizens of this country going to stand up and say we have had enough of this bullshit and start making everyone from the top to the bottom accountable for the injustices that they put on our system and our people. With the billions of dollars already sent down there and people are in no better shape than the day of the storm is totally disgusting. Only the few that know how to rip the system off are building the mansions. The US government should be in there buying up the properties at fair market rate and keeping the land so that this will not ever happen again. They should be in there buidling low income and subsidized housing along with habitat for housing.
They should be giving contracts to low bidders of huge construction companies tax gains or incentives to go down and expediate building. These are all no brainers... in a country that is just so used to the abuses we just turn our heads and look the other way.
Enough is enough... After all, this should never of happened to begin with, not in this day in age...

I totally agree with so much of things already said. We are suppose to be living in the best country, yet there are still so many people needing help. How many more millions of dollars is Bush planning to spend on the war. It's simply rediculous that he can spend so much money over there, instead of helping the victims yet suffering from Katrina. He is in New Orleans today. My opinion, BIG DEAL!!!! He has been there how many times now, but yet he does not seem to understand that there are so many people in our own country that need so much help getting their lives back together. I visited my son in New Orleans last year. A year after Katrina, and I still couldn't belive how much needs to be done. All the millions of dollars and manpower that is happening in the war should be used here in our own country.
Wake up Bush, and give New Orleans the help they need. I just can't believe how much still needs to be done. My prayers and thoughts are with all of you. My son works at Childrens Hospital, and thank God he was able to get out safely. But not before all the children were safe and sound getting out of there.

It is appalling that on Katrina's second anniversary our nation has neglected our own. Hearing these terrible stories without names and location, we would think this tragedy took place in a third world country where there is extreme poverty, lack of education, and resources to do better. Our country has the wherewithal to make things happen and we are quick to provide aid for impoverished countries. But when the tragedy strikes home and action requires more than sending aid, our government did not have a plan in place to save our own. It is indeed a very sad situation that two years later there still is not a plan to cover our citizens like Ms Addison. I can't help but wonder where Ms Addison and others in the same situation will be on Katrina's third anniversary.

In other words, you censor everything that is said so it confirms to your left wing agenda. This makes your objective irrelevant.

Notice who are the people who are still suffering as a result of Katrina. It's the folks who have low incomes. Why the government is not building back low income housing after 2 years? it's because they don't want those people there. I thought it was terrible to hold Mardi Gras and get tourists back into New Orleans when there are so many people who are still displaced. The people in our government are not out to help us. They are out to make money. Look at the FEMA trailers that were rushed through manufacture with too much formaldahyde and other chemicals in them that made people sick. Those people are still trying to deal with the government over that issue. Heck, there are people in Florida who are still living in FEMA trailers after the hurricanes that went through down there even before Katrina. Our government doesn't care about us unless we stop sending them our taxes.

I pray for all the victums,I dont know how that feels.God will bring all of us on our knees.Lord have mercey to all of us.We all are in turmoil!

Why are my tax dollars being spent to put these people back in harms way? If they want to build their homes in an under water level, crime ridden, inept government run city....let them do it with their own moeny.

I expect my tax dollars to help...not perpetuate misery.

To Big E, yes most of the people are able bodied, and yes they have jobs. They are not living in trailers out of choice. Most of them were tax paying citizens with mortgages/homes and had some level of insurance. Also most were living in areas deemed "non flood zones". These people are still paying on their flooded houses, paying for repairs for their homes, providing for a family and PAYING TAXES!. No one is "living it up" in a Fema trailer trust me. If they move to another state people like you judge them and discard them so they choose to live where they have grown up and where people do not judge them. Let's see how you would live if you had flood insurance, your house flooded and then the insurance company doesn't pay the claim and still pay the mortgage and provide for a family.

Are you serious, Deborah Lynne in DC? You think Linda Addison is in this position because of people on welfare? Really?!!?

Oh, you sad, sad woman. The fact of the matter is that there are MANY reasons Linda Addison is in this position today, one of the least important reasons being the so-called welfare divas. You opinion reeks of ignorance, arrogance and possible racism as well. Do you honestly believe that this endless war in Iraq - you know, the war that would "pay for itself" in the words of certain GOP geniuses -- is draining fewer financial resources than welfare recipients? And what about all the money spent on pork barrel projects that the GOP-controlled congress passed in the six years they knew there would be no veto possibility from their GOP President? And what about the tax cuts that President Bush gave to mostly the wealthiest people in the nation, in the deluded hopes that the money would trickle down to the peons? That money would have come in handy in the government's pockets rather than stashed in the bank accounts of millionaires collecting interest on it. (For the record: in the first year of those fantastic Bush tax cuts, I got laid off from my full-time job, worked THREE part-time jobs for two-thirds of the year, made about $2,000 over the "poverty line," -- and ended up owing the US government come tax time because I'm not stupid enough to have children out of wedlock. Yeah, the Bush tax cuts were a source of endless joy for people like me, Ms. Deborah Lynne.) And in the case of New Orleans citizens (I can't speak for Mississppi citizens), there is the never-ending city and state-wide corruption that, along with the Army Corps of Engineers's incompetence, allowed the levees to become time bombs that exploded two years ago today, thus throwing thousands of New Orleans citizens into the same basic situation in which Linda Addison finds herself.

Next time, Ms. Deborah Lynne, I would think very carefully before posting a message as absurd as yours. I, too, would love to believe that cutting off money to welfare divas would solve our financial problems. Reality, however, is not that simple, though some folks claiming to be a part of it apparently are.

BILLIONS GOING TO THE OCCUPATION IN IRAQ!!!!! TO THINK THAT LINDA ADDISON IS AN AMERICAN CITIZEN & ALL THAT MONEY COULD HAVE BEEN USED TO HELP OUR OWN PEOPLE, IS BEING SENT TO ANOTHER COUNTRY, WHERE MUCH OF IT HAS BEEN "LOST". I AM AN RN, AND WORKED AT THE OTIS AIR BASE, ASSISTING SEVERAL HUNDRED SURVIVORS OF KATRINA. I WILL NEVER FORGET THE LOOK ON THE MAJORITY OF THE SURVIVOR'S FACES, WHEN THEY FIRST ARRIVED ON THE BASE. TO THINK THAT 2 YEARS HAVE PASSED, AND AMERICANS, LIKE LINDA, WHO SURVIVED THE INITIAL TRAUMA OF KATRINA CONTINUE TO BE TRAUMATIZED. WE NEED TO START DEALING WITH THE FRAUD THAT IS THROUGHOUT OUR WELFARE SYSTEM, SO THAT WE CAN HELP THE PEOPLE WHO DESERVE THE ASSISTANCE, AND WE ALSO NEED TO STOP THROWING BILLIONS TO THE OCCUPATION OF IRAQ!!!

I have read all your responses. Only three touched on the right issue. At 70 years of age if anything happened to me I know my children would step in, that is called family. We help each other. Where is Linda's child? Even if it would mean sleeping on a sofa in the living room, where is her family. Goverment should not be expected to look out for someone forever. She is only 60 and is looking for someone to help her out. I feel for her, but I feel she and her family are only looking for someone else to resolve her issues. Move to a place that she can afford, and they are out there. Try Arkansas.

People often complain that spending money on the war is just like the US going to an ammo store and filling up its shopping cart. The vast majority of defense spending directly benefits the US economy. There are thousands of defense contractors that employ tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of working class Americans. We decide to pull all that funding and those people lose their jobs. What happens to those families when they are faced with dire situations similar to Ms. Addison? I make the Monday I do everyday not just to support my comfy lifestyle but to ensure that if some catastrophe did strike my life, I would be able to recover and provide for my family.

Home rental rates were already being pushed up prior to Katrina due to the growth of the gambling industry along the coast, and housing always spikes up after a weather catastrophe because suddenly there are fewer houses available with workers pouring in to further increase demand. It's not the government's responsibility to restore her economic situation. She was already being helped by a rent subsidy and early retirement payments by Social Security which is essentially what disability paments are. It's incumbent on her to move to where her money will go further. Taxpayers have no responsibility to throw money at her until she reaches middle class status.

While my heart goes out to Linda and others like her I feel that they must accept responsibility for their own situation. I know of too many instances where the money that was given to help right after the storm was used for everything from breast implants to rims for cars. I know of others that thought it was the end of the world because they were denied funds from the Road Home program, after receiving flood insurance and settled with their home owners insurance for thousands and thousands of dollars.
My in-laws, retired and on a fixed income, refurbished their home on the very limited funds they received from their insurance company and their savings. As I said, some need to stop waiting for someone else to fix their situation and start helping themselves.
One last question: Where is her son or daughter? Why aren't they helping?

Also even though there are plenty of jobs, the prices for everything from milk to rent has sky rocketed here. I make 80K a year and barely scraping buy with a family of 5. I was lucky enough to not have owned a house during the storm, but even renters are paying double and triple what they were paying before the storm.

I see the air in DC affects all its residents, not just government "representatives" and pundits.

Linda's income is certainly low enough to qualify for food stamps - which is a welfare program. She probably has Medicaid as well - which is also a welfare program. I bet she also receives help from the Low-Income Heating/Energy Assistance Program - which is another welfare program. (And if she's not receiving help from those programs, she should be.)

There are a whole lot of "truly needy" people in this country who are receiving an assortment of welfare benefits. Not just the elderly and disabled, but those trying to raise children on incomes below the poverty level.

Everyone listen very carefully. It is not the job of the government to house feed and cloth the general public. And those of you that keep saying we need to stop sending money to the our US Armed Forces over seas are nuts. You are saying that linda gets to live but our young men and women should die because they choose to fight for linda's freedom. Linda's case is bad and not one that anybody would wish on a humanbeing, but if we handed out money to all people who had stories like linda's we would have a broke Govt. and a ton more pissed of people then we have now. People must do for themselves and if they can't then it is the job of their friends and family and church to help them, NOT the Government. The GOVT. is doing its job by providing freedom how we us the freedom is up to us as individuals!!

BUSH IS ASKING HOW MUCH MORE FOR THE WAR IN IRAQ?? HOW MANY MILLIONS??? WHAT ABOUT THESE PEOPLE IN NEW ORLEANS THE GOV GIVES THEM POISIONOUS TRAILERS TO LIVE IN AND THEN TAKES THEM AWAY AND LEAVES THEM HOMELESS??? EITHER WAY THEY HAVE LOST ? I BET ALOT THINK THE WAY LINDA DOES WHEN SHE SAID SOMETIMES SHE THINKS SHE SHOULD OF STAYED FOR THE STORM AND IT WOULD BE OVER NOW .AND THAT IS SO SAD! BUT HOW TRUE. .OH AND HOW NICE IT WAS BUSH FINALLY GOT AROUND TO VISIT NEW ORLEANS MARKING THE ANNIVARSARY I BET HE DIDN'T GET ALOT OF APPLAUSE.SHAME ON HIM FOR NOT COMING SOONER AND MORE OFTEN.AND NEW ORLEANS IS NOT THE ONLY DISASTER AREA . IT GOES THROUGH OUT THE WHOLE US WITH MAJOR FLOODING-TORNADOES-RAVAGING FIRES-EARTH QUAKES ETC...IF THIS CONT. AND ALL THE HELP THE GOVT. GIVES GOD HELP US ALL

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