The Long "Road Home"

December 17, 2006
Reported By: Lee Peck

It's no secret Governor Kathleen Blanco's $7.5-billion Road Home Program has been plagued with problems and delays. Just last week, lawmakers requested the private contractor running the program be replaced.

So far, just 82 homeowners out of an estimated 123,000 eligible in Louisiana have received their housing recovery grants. It doesn't matter which storm did the damage, the Road Home is proving to be a long one.

"People who have had damaged homes in Rita parishes are definitely high on the totem pole for Louisiana," said Governor Kathleen Blanco at an August 18, 2006 press conference. "And We're going to help our folks get home, all of our folks."

Inspired by Governor Blanco's Road Home Program for hurricane victims, Jennings resident Brenda Parsley was one of the first to apply online August 21st. "It came up online at 1 a.m. By 1:07 a.m. I had completed my application. The told me I was among the first group of people," said Parsley.

For the past 13 months Parsley has been living in a FEMA trailer after her home took on extensive wind damage from Hurricane Rita. September 12th, Parsley had her first initial meeting with a local Road Home representative. Three days later an inspector showed up at her house. She says everything seemed promising.

"September 15th my house was deemed uninhabitable. I haven't heard from anyone since," said Parsley.

Parsley says daily calls to both the local and Baton Rouge Road Home offices have been met with more delays. "Yesterday they told me they couldn't find my application. Then today, when I told them you were coming they told me they were trying to figure out how much to approve for me," said Parsley. "I mean the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing. There is a lack of communication."

Disabled and unable to work, Parsley could not afford insurance on her home -- a home now overcome by black mold. "We cleaned, we killed, we painted it. We did everything we could to stop it. It doesn't stop," explained Parsley.

She now prepares to spend her second Christmas in a FEMA trailer. "This is the top of my actual Christmas tree... It's all we could fit in here. We also put some garland up here. We're just trying to make it feel like home," said Parsley.

As she wait's for a miracle, Parsley fears she may never find the road home. "I'm waiting for FEMA to come throw me out... I'm worried I may soon be homeless."

Parsley says she plans to apply for other grants to help with a new home, but says applicants must know how much they will receive from the Road Home before applying. We were unable to reach the Road Home, but will continue to follow this story.