Even NPR Agrees: Former New Orleans Residents Better Off in Deep Red States

August 11, 2015

NPR is running stories on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.  In this story, they interviewed three people who fled New Orleans and aren’t going back.  Two out of the three have moved to among the reddest of red cities—one to Houston, Texas, the other to Salt Lake City, Utah—and couldn’t be happier.  (The third has moved to a small town in Louisiana.)

In Texas, new opportunities, and a new home:

VEAL: . . . You know, when this all came up — the interview — it made me think and realize I’ve been in Houston for 10 years.

HASAN: Although he didn’t plan for it, Veal says coming to Houston created opportunities for him. He went back to school and earned his master’s degree in education, and he’s studying for his teacher’s certification exam. Veal and his family are settled into a cozy, suburban home. He says Katrina allowed him to start fresh in a new place.

VEAL: It was an adjustment. It was a reality check. But I thank God for it, and I’m extremely appreciative, you know, for Houston, Texas. I really am.

HASAN: As much as he misses New Orleans, Veal says he finally feels at home here. For NPR News, I’m Syeda Hasan in Houston.

In Utah, NPR is even more explicit—good housing and the good life are more affordable there, more nearly available to everyone:

ROSE: Which brings us to maybe the biggest difference — here, blacks make up less than 2 percent of the population.

So how often do you see another African-American during the week?

TIMMONS: Well, when I come to church. That’s about it.

. . .

ROSE: Timmons found the congregation that’s become his family soon after arriving. Pastor France Davis of Calvary Baptist Church visited the National Guard training camp where the evacuees were being housed and held services. Timmons joined the church choir. Pastor Davis was impressed with Timmons’ drive and offered him a job helping other evacuees settle in. That position lasted a couple of years and inspired Timmons to get his master’s degree in social work. He’s now employed full-time at a mental health agency. . . .

TIMMONS: Storms come. Storms go. But that’s life.

ROSE: Pastor France Davis is convinced Timmons is better off for sticking around.

FRANCE DAVIS: In terms of his lifestyle and housing and those sorts of things that is available here is much more decent and much more affordable than it was for them in New Orleans.

ROSE: Sure, Timmons says he misses his hometown, but he’s never really considered going back, except for an occasional visit. His parents have passed away and his siblings are scattered around the South, so there’s really not much for him to go home to.

TIMMONS: And I feel like I was brought here by God, so I’m OK.

ROSE: OK enough to consider staying here another 10 years even. For NPR News, I’m Julie Rose in Salt Lake City.

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