The stench isn’t so bad anymore inside the three-bedroom house in north Baton Rouge where Rodney Davis has been living since the water receded.
Volunteers tore out the hallway carpet. They hauled fouled furniture to the curb. And in a few rooms, they removed four feet of soggy drywall, exposing the skeleton of the home’s wood frame.
But the job is far from done. Ruined walls still hang in a bathroom, the den and the kitchen. And mold threatens to creep toward the ceiling.
“I bought a cot, and I’ve got one lounge chair, and I’ve been sitting here,” Davis, a retired union pipefitter. “It’s gotten better since they got that back (section) done. I got fans going, and I got the windows open, so I don’t really smell nothing real bad.”
Rodney Davis has been sleeping on a cot in his flood-ravaged north Baton Rouge home, away from mold-ridden areas of the house.
“It’s not what I would call ‘ideal condition,’ I’ll tell you that,” he said. “But it don’t smell too bad up front where I’m at. That’s the key thing. My main objective right now is just, get it gutted. Then I’ll wait for FEMA.”
More than three weeks after catastrophic flooding devastated south Louisiana, killing 13 people and causing at least $8.7 billion in damages, FEMA reports more than 134,000 households have registered for aid and 115,000 housing inspections have been completed.
But the critical work of gutting flooded structures so rebuilding can begin is still a daily slog. It continues even as state and federal officials work to launch temporary shelter programs, including the delivery of temporary mobile homes and rental vouchers.
That means many people — including the elderly and those with medical problems — have little choice but to remain in their ruined residences. According to one local estimate, as many as 2,600 individuals or families are still living in homes that have not been gutted or treated for mold.
The staggering figure exposes a critical gap in the government’s disaster response apparatus — one that local organizations in Louisiana have been hustling to fill.
“The intention after a flood by FEMA is everybody clean their house out themselves, with friends and family,” said retired Lt. Gen. Russel Honore, a Louisiana native who was at the helm of the Hurricane Katrina response and who has been working since last month’s floods to connect residents with recovery resources.
“The federal government, as good as we think they are, they’re not that good,” he said. “It is beyond their scope to have an individual program that could touch every person on every block.”