Thirteen families are still living in donated Cedar Rapids apartments after fleeing about a year ago from homes that were destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. Terrone Bell says he misses Louisiana. “I don’t dwell on what happened because if you think about it, it’s very depressing,” Bell says.
The Mid-American Housing Partnership provided Bell’s family and the other dozen Louisiana families an apartment. Bell says his kids are excelling in their Cedar Rapids school. “When we got here…they (were) teaching them Spanish and I’m like: ‘Spanish? In first grade?'” Bell says. “Man, we didn’t get Spanish until we (were) in the 7th or 8th grade.”
While the kids sort through spelling tests and math problems, mom and dad have been dealing with starting over in a new place. Rhonda Bell says they’ve had trouble paying the rent because they haven’t gotten all of the benefits FEMA promised them. “It’s a lot of things that they put you through — a lot of red, red tape,” Rhonda Bell said. She tries not to think about the hurricane, but sometimes she can’t help it. “I told my husband that one day, I was like: ‘Do you think the stuff that we had in our apartment that we could have had in Iowa?’ and he was like: ‘Yea, I miss this and I miss that,'” Rhonda Bell says. “But it’s just material things.”
Many of the other Katrina families living in the Mid-American Housing Partnership apartments in Cedar Rapids are having trouble paying their rent and the organization is working with the families to develop payment plans rather than evict them.