Housing among biggest concerns for Terrebonne communities recovering from Hurricane Ida

People living in tents, campers in the wake of the hurricane

By: - September 22, 2021 5:07 pm

A Chauvin house in ruins after Hurricane Ida (Photo by Rachel Mipro/Louisiana Illuminator)

Out in Chauvin, Melissa and Kimothy Guy wade through muddy water to get to their water-damaged home. It’s been 23 days since Hurricane Ida hit, and they’ve been driving in from Thibodaux every morning to work on fixing their trawl boat, hoping to make it livable–it’s an easier project than their house, which had the roof completely torn off.

Kimothy said there was no other option for them. He’s lived on the bayou for 53 years and won’t move now, though he said this is the worst he’s ever seen.

“I live on the water, I’m a commercial fisherman,” Kimothy said. “Put me on land, I won’t know what to do. I need water to work. That’s all we do, fix yourself back up and survive. That’s all we can do, we don’t have anything else. We grew up to do that, that’s what our daddies and grandfathers did.”

Kimothy stayed with his boat when the hurricane hit, hoping to save it from damage. When the ropes snapped and the boat capsized, he was able to wrap a life boat around the engine, clinging to it in the water for about an hour before swimming back to his yard and taking shelter in his shed with three other fishermen. And after all that, his boat might not be salvageable.

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For people living in the bayou region, housing is one of the biggest concerns in the wake of Hurricane Ida. According to Rep. Tanner Magee, R-Houma, 13,000 homes in the area were destroyed, with 60% of everything below the intracoastal canal uninhabitable. He said that FEMA representatives told him it would be around 30 days before they can send any housing assistance, like trailers or portable units, a timeline that Magee finds unacceptable.

“Once residents move, they’re not coming back. And we already have a problem in this state about migration to begin with. This is the worst possible scenario,” Magee said.

“I’m just really frustrated that we’re not getting enough attention from really anyone to see that the problem down here is getting pretty critical. Federal government, FEMA and HUD need to act immediately. There’s more important things going on than the future of Entergy New Orleans and trash pickup.”

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By a party-line vote Tuesday, the House, led by Democrats, passed a bill that would provide $28.6 billion in disaster aid for wildfires, floods and Hurricanes Ida, Delta, Zeta and Laura. But the measure is uncertain in the Senate, which is evenly split.

Most of Kimothy Guy’s crab traps have washed away. His shrimp boat flipped over, and he can’t drive his car into the yard because power lines are still down.

“Everybody is talking about New Orleans,” he said. “But look at us.”

Further down the road, Elizabeth Schrader is living in a tent with her two dogs and her husband. Their house is completely gone, with only a few wood stumps showing where it had been. Their generator isn’t working, so they’ve been cooking food in a barbecue pit out back and buying only nonperishables.

“It’s horrible. Very horrible,” Schrader said.

The two are hoping for FEMA assistance to come through soon, so that they can buy a camper to move into.

“It’s so hot inside that tent. Rocks are hurting my back and all. I can’t hardly sleep in there at night,” Schrader said.

Elizabeth Schrader inside her tent, where she has been living since Hurricane Ida destroyed her home (Photo by Rachel Mipro/Louisiana Illuminator)

Her neighbor, Kerry Labauve was busy making stairs with his brother-in-law.
He’s been using a ladder to get into his house. Labauve’s wife has bad knees, so they’ve been using their generator to power their elevator for her to go up and down. Labauve is also a fisherman who’s stayed on the bayou his entire life.

His dock is destroyed, and his crab and shrimp boats are damaged. He said he’s not waiting around for FEMA and is working on repairs himself.

“I’m not going anywhere else. We got an ass kicking, turn around, pick yourself up and get ready for the next ass kicking,” Labauve said. “That’s living on the bayou.”

Closer to the city, Montegut Fire Chief Toby Henry said his own home was damaged but ultimately fixable. At the station, his firefighters are returning to a semi-normal schedule, after weeks assisting with the hurricane recovery.

But he’s worried about the future of his station, which depends on community taxes to survive. Henry said he doesn’t know if people can afford to rebuild, even if they’d want to return.

“At what point does it start affecting all of our services and affecting the community as a whole if people don’t come back?” Henry said. “If the government doesn’t allow these businesses to build back, if they would like to build back. What the issues are going to be with the new standards, the new codes, can they even afford to build back?”

Reggie Dupre, executive director of the Terrebonne Levee District, estimates that around 10-15% of people in the area lost their homes, with five floodgates damaged and a tremendous amount of debris.

Debris outside of Chauvin homes after Hurricane Ida (Photo by Rachel Mipro/Louisiana Illuminator)

“This is going to be a long recovery process,” Dupre said. “Thank God there were no fatalities. I really thought we would have needed hundreds of body bags after that kind of wind.”

Dupre said housing was a pressing issue, but one silver lining was that the parish might finally get some federal funding. Dupre said they’ve been dealing with the federal system since 1992, trying to get flood mitigation assistance for 29 years.

“We’ve been to Congress three or four times, we got authorized last time in 2014. I asked some of the Senate staffers once we got authorized for the third time, I said, ‘When can we expect federal money?’ They said ‘When you get wiped out.’”

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Rachel Mipro
Rachel Mipro

Rachel Mipro has previous experience at WBRZ and The Reveille and earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Louisiana State University. At LSU, she worked as an opinion editor for The Reveille and as a nonfiction editor for the university’s creative writing journal. In her free time, she enjoys baking, Netflix and hiking.

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