For many storm victims the road to recovery continues to be long and hard. Since November, Jerry Lahr from Slidell, Louisiana has been in Meridian with his fiance' searching for a job, preferably one in the computer field. Despite his vast knowledge in this area and retiree status from the Navy, so far he's been unsuccessful. Now, out of money and time, Lahr says he doesn't have a choice.
"If nothing happens in the next week and a half, we're gonna leave!"
Leave he says, not because he wants to, but instead because he'll have to.
However, there's some good news! More help is now available for Lahr and other storm victims like him. As part of a federal grant, for the next few months special reintegration counselors are being placed in 15 states to help assist storm victims with their needs.
"Our job is to act as a counselor, act as a referral agent, point them in the right direction. Giving them information to get the services that are available," says local reintegration counselor, Josie Gilchrist-Camper.
Stationed in Meridian, Camper says there are still hundreds of evacuees in the area. According to her, one of the biggest problems many of them are now facing is mounting bills. This is a problem which Lahr says he knows all too well about.
"I was making over $20 an hour while I was working New Orleans and my bills are right there at the $20 an hour level!"
Plus, because Lahr's fiance' was on a fixed rate utilities bill plan, she's still being charged for service there even though she does not live in Louisiana any longer. This is something which Lahr calls just another reason that he and his fiance' need to find jobs, and soon!
"They're reporting this stuff to the credit bureaus and everything else. We've got to get this paid off. We've got to get this taken care of!"
Because of situations like this, Gilchrist-Camper says the sooner that storm victims still in need seek out any assistance available, the better!
"Because you don't know when they're going to stop!"
Gilchrist-Camper's office is located in the WIN Job Center on Highway 19th North. It's open Monday through Friday during regular business hours. For more information, call (601) 938-7998 or (601) 483-1406.