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'They're saying that my house is livable' | Lake Charles evacuees told to leave N.O. hotels

Their homes must be inspected by FEMA before they can ask the Louisiana National Guard for relocation from, which may send them back to New Orleans anyway.

NEW ORLEANS — A number of Lake Charles area hurricane evacuees are being told it’s time to leave FEMA paid hotels in New Orleans several weeks after two hurricanes hit western Louisiana. 

According to the Louisiana Department of Children and Family services -- a state group working with the Red Cross -- several hotels serving as shelters have been consolidating in recent days and people without major damage to their homes have been returning to their communities.   

"This letter is to advise you that your hotel/motel room will no longer be available to you after Tuesday 10/20/20," said Shirley Carrier, a Hurricane Laura evacuee reading a letter she received notifying her it was time to head home. The trouble is, there is no home to return to, according to Carrier.       

“The roof… the roof is on the floor,” said Carrier.      

Carrier isn’t the only one.   

"They are saying that my house is livable,” said another hurricane evacuee, Tiqua Hayes. “Last I checked when I did survey the damage of Laura where I sleep, the bed, you could completely see the sky."    

"I am not understanding why we should have to leave if our home is not livable," said another evacuee, a mother of three named Gabrielle Celestine.  

Evacuees outside the Hilton Monday told us they are supposed to be checked out by Tuesday at 11.a.m. and board buses back to their damaged homes. From there they are being told to call FEMA to do an inspection. At that point, if their house does not pass inspection, evacuees are being told to ask the National Guard to relocate them to Alexandria.   

"And then from Alexandria, they are being processed out to three parishes for hotels including Lafayette, Baton Rouge and New Orleans," said Michelle Timberlake with the Able’d Artists Foundation, a group working to help evacuees.

You read that right. After all that, there could be a chance evacuees could come back to New Orleans, according to Timberlake.   

"Yes. Several of them had already been in New Orleans and were sent back to Lake Charles. There just needs to be a better process. There needs to be a review process," said Timberlake.   

The process is not an easy one for the many parents and kids as well the disabled, like Elizabeth Simien, a hurricane evacuee bound to a wheelchair.    

"We are not all crying out for help,” said Simien. “We are not looking for handouts. We are not looking for freebies. We are asking for help."  

The Louisiana Department of Children and family services is handling getting the evacuees back to Lake Charles along with the Red Cross. They sent a statement saying in part: "a considerable amount of infrastructure has been restored in impacted communities. For residents who may return and be faced with more damage than expected local, state and other community organizations resources are readily available."

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