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Talk of the Town - Food and shelter September 21 2005

Evacuees find the things they need most at Kennesaw apartment complex

From the outside, Kennesaw's Parkside at Town Center apartment complex looks like any other, with large multifloor buildings and a resort-style pool. Upon stepping inside the main office, however, one immediately finds the floor littered with overflowing boxes labeled "baby supplies," "women's clothing" and "toiletries," just to name a few. Over the past few weeks, Parkside has opened its doors to become a home to Katrina evacuees.

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Leasing agent Wendy Osborne was once a native of New Orleans and was devastated by the disaster. Wanting to offer assistance, she engaged her manager, Pamela Roberts, and the two petitioned their corporate managers to offer shelter to evacuees. They, in turn, agreed without hesitation.

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A few days after Osborne and Roberts' efforts began, Norman and Donna Hymel arrived looking for help. They had lost their home and most of their possessions in the storm, and coincidently stumbled upon the complex-turned-relief center in search of a place to stay until they could get back on their feet. They were immediately set up in a vacant apartment.

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How did you end up in Atlanta?

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Norman Hymel: We didn't know where we were going. We just knew we had to leave town. We figured we would head east because going west, it would have taken us a day or two to get out of New Orleans.

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What were you doing in New Orleans before the storm?

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We had been in New Orleans for five, six years. I was working for a shipping company in the integrated logistics support. As of what I have heard, this is the last week that I'll be receiving a paycheck and after that we are basically on our own.

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What has become of your possessions and home in New Orleans?

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They let us come back in and see the condition of our home. It's not livable: The walls and bottom are completely destroyed and there is no water and no electricity. It's dirty and unsanitary. The devastation everywhere — not just our home — is unbelievable.

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What have you seen the Atlanta community do to help?

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People are opening up their doors and giving their homes to people like us. I never expected anything like this. The people here at Parkside have been so amazing, them giving us all of this for nothing. We walked into Publix the other day, and employees just began filling our basket with food — all for free.

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Would you like to stay in Atlanta?

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I think we might wind up staying here. Right now, these people have given us everything we need and we are so grateful. They have told us we can stay here as long as we need at no cost, and we have a phone and television and electricity. If we don't have a home to go to, no job and no money, then we have to start over here, and thankfully we have this place to get us started.

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cityhomes@creativeloafing.com



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