The children upended by Hurricane Katrina have no psychological playbook for the youngsters displaced by Harvey, or those in the path of Irma, the hurricane that spun through the Caribbean and Florida.
In the aftermath of Harvey, more than 160 public school districts and 30 charter schools have closed in the sprawling Houston metropolitan area. Families have scrambled to higher ground, some to other cities like Dallas or San Antonio, others into shelters. Thousands of children will have to adjust on the fly, bussed for hours to new schools from makeshift housing. Texas officials are scrambling to coordinate mental health support; the state’s psychology board is issuing temporary licenses for out-of-state therapists.
In a series of interviews here in New Orleans, 12 years after Katrina’s devastating floods, young survivors, now in their early 20s, agreed only that overcoming the mental strain of displacement is like escaping the rising water itself – a matter of finding something to hold onto, one safe place or reliable person, each time you move.
Everything else is up for grabs, including the meaning of home itself. “I was so homesick I moved back here soon as I could, right after graduating high school,” Craig Jones, 22, a freelance graphic designer and musician, said in an interview near Pigeon Town, the working class neighborhood of modest homes, diners and shaded porches where he grew up. “I got here and it was the same place but not the same, if you feel what I’m saying.”