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Katrina: The Debris // Houston

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Kate Richardson
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Cousins Tiyan and Chelsea Freeman relocated to Houston after Katrina.

Nearly a quarter of a million people evacuated to Houston from New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, and in 2006 there were still about 150,000 Katrina evacuees in the Bayou City. As of 2012, 40,000 had resettled permanently from New Orleans to the Houston area.

Katrina forever altered the relationship between these two Gulf Coast port cities. This week on Katrina: The Debris, we head west on I-10. 

While Houston is a big place with lots of resources, a sudden influx of so many people was a shock to the system. The city and Harris County scrambled to bring services and temporary housing to Katrina evacuees. 

Eventually, as temporary shelters like the Astrodome began to close down, thousands of people transitioned from evacuees to Houstonians. They needed housing, schools and jobs. 

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Tiyan and Treyan now live in Houston, but they keep the New Orleans porch sitting tradition alive and well.

Producer Kate Richardson is a Houston native. Ten years ago she was a senior at Westfield High School in the northwest suburb of Spring. By some accounts, Westfield took in the largest group of New Orleans evacuee students of any public high school in the whole city. Kate reflects on that school year and talks with classmates and evacuees about their experiences at Westfield. 

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Westfield High School in Spring, Texas took on about 200 New Orleans students after Katrina.

We talk to professor Sean Varano of Roger Williams University about a study he conducted analyzing the supposed post-Katrina crime wave in Houston. Was there an increase in crime in Houston after the storm? Were the New Orleans evacuees to blame? 

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