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To give voice to people whose lives have been devastated by Hurricane Katrina and the ensuing floods, The Washington Post, the Kaiser Family Foundation, and the Harvard School of Public Health conducted a unique survey of evacuees in shelters in the Houston area. More than 1 in 10 (14%) Hurricane Katrina evacuees report a family member, neighbor, or friend was killed by the storm or subsequent flooding; more than half report that their home was destroyed (55%) and that they are separated from or missing members of their immediate family (53%).


The survey also found that evacuees in Houston shelters face serious health challenges that will complicate relief and recovery efforts. Key health-related findings include:


* 52% report having no health insurance coverage at the time of the hurricane. Of those with coverage, 34% say it is through Medicaid and 16% through Medicare. Before the hurricane, 66% of the people evacuated to Houston shelters used hospitals or clinics as their main source of care and of those, a majority (54%) used Charity Hospital of New Orleans, substantially more than the second most common care site (University Hospital of New Orleans, at 8%).


* 33% report experiencing health problems or injuries as a result of the hurricane and 78% of them are currently receiving care for their ailments.


* 41% report chronic health conditions such as heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, and asthma.


* 43% say they are supposed to be taking prescription medications, and of those, 29% report having problems getting the prescription drugs they need.



Of the 61% who did not evacuate before the storm, 38% said they were either physically unable to leave or had to care for someone who was physically unable to leave. Among those surveyed, 98% are from the New Orleans area and about three-quarters of those (73%) have lived there their whole lives. In surviving this tragedy, an overwhelming majority of the evacuees in Houston shelters (92%) say that religion played an important role in helping them get through the first two weeks after the storm.


The Survey of Hurricane Katrina Evacuees was based on a sample of 680 randomly selected adults ages 18 years and older, staying in the Houston Reliant Park Complex (which includes the Reliant Astrodome and the Reliant Center), the George R. Brown Convention Center, and five smaller Red Cross shelters in the greater Houston area. Interviews were conducted face-to-face September 10-12, 2005. The survey was conducted and analyzed jointly by The Washington Post, the Kaiser Family Foundation, and the Harvard School of Public Health. Interviews were conducted by 28 professional Houston-based interviewers under the supervision of staff from Kaiser and ICR/International Communications Research, and with input from The Post staff in Houston. The Red Cross gave The Post/Kaiser/Harvard interviewing team permission to interview at the various centers, but was not a co-sponsor of the survey and bears no responsibility for results presented here. Full survey toplines and methodology and a link to the Washington Post article are available online at