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Toni, Ann's daughter-in-law who lives in another part of the Astor Crowne Plaza Hotel, says that being stranded in the hotel has been difficult on her children. "We try to stay focused, we try to do the best we can," she says.

Their problems even extend beyond the difficulty of living for months in a small room with no resources. "My daughter was just put out of school because she didn't have the right color uniform shirt," Toni says. "I can't afford a $25 uniform shirt."

Toni says the experience has left her emotionally drained. "I go in the bathroom and cry. I kiss my babies and I cry. I have a twin sister I call and cry to every single day," she says.

People may wonder why Ann, Terry and Toni don't leave New Orleans and start a new life somewhere else. Ann says she feels that staying in the city is important. "This is my home," she says. "I have been here all my life, and all I've known is New Orleans. ... I want to put my family back together."

After Anderson interviewed Ann, her prayers were answered. The Astor Crowne Plaza agreed to house her family for another three days until their apartment would be ready.

Many families aren't as fortunate. Anderson predicts that many people will end up in shelters or will have to depend on relatives for help. FEMA is now offering rental assistance to those who want to move back to New Orleans, but apartments are scarce and rents are "sky high," he says.
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FROM: An Oprah Special Report: The Katrina Stories No One is Telling
Published on February 21, 2006

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