Before Katrina stuck, Lacey and Wilmer Carcamo were gradually building their life together. The couple, who married in 2003, rented a home in Metairie and cared for Lacey’s two daughters, Katelyn and Brianna, and their two children, Dakota and Mariona.
Wilmer, who came to the U.S. from Honduras in search of a better life, had also become a father to Katelyn and Brianna.
Lacey says before the storm, life was good. Wilmer worked full-time, earning enough to support the family so she could care for their children.
“I didn’t own anything, but we were building our life,” she says.
She had grown up near Shell Beach in St. Bernard Parish and her mother and many of her 10 siblings still live nearby. When the storm was headed for New Orleans, the family evacuated to Crystal Beach, Texas, where they stayed in a church for a couple of months.
“We came back as soon as they said we could,” Lacey says. “This is home.”
Their apartment was flooded with two feet of water, enough to ruin almost everything inside. Wilmer immediately saved what furniture was salvageable and gutted the rest. Lacey says when FEMA came to do a damage assessment, because everything was already gone, they did not award them any funds for damages.
With four children and no assistance, the couple decided to use what little savings they had to buy a gutted home in St. Bernard. They planned to fix it up as they saved money from Wilmer’s paychecks. They were also closer to Lacey’s family, almost all of whom had lost their homes during Katrina. In 2007, they had their third child together, Gabriella. In August 2009, their son, Kaiden, was born.
While the house was not perfect – much work was left to be done even while the growing family lived in it – the Carcamos were making it work and were confident they would get it done, little by little. Wilmer worked full-time and worked on the home with Lacey’s brothers in the evenings and on weekends.
Since Katrina, the Carcamo’s had been working with a lawyer to get Wilmer U.S. citizenship. Although Wilmer had entered the country illegally, they couple had some reason to hope that he might not be separated from his family.
But then, inevitable bad news came. The day Kaiden was born, the couple received a call that Wilmer was being deported. Wilmer did not want cause any further delays in his case and left for Honduras promptly and voluntarily. They family was told he would only be gone a few months. Unfortunately, it has been over ten months and his case is still tied up with Honduran immigration. Wilmar’s first son has spent the first year of his life without his father.
Now Lacey, with an infant and five children to support, is struggling to get by and has no means to finish their home. Lacey had previously been on Social Security Disability for a learning disability, but now the family lives off Lacey’s daughter Katelyn’s Social Security Disability check, which is just $675 a month.
Even more, Lacey and the children desperately miss their father.
“Every day the kids want their daddy,” Lacey says.
And while the home is liveable, it is in no means ideal for 6 children. Kaiden is started to crawl, but Lacey is afraid he’ll hurt himself on the unfinished floors in the home.
Like many people who rented before the storm, Lacey does not qualify for federal assistance to help rebuild. Wilmer’s case might not come up in court until November and even then there is no guarantee he will be allowed back.
“I really miss him,” Lacey says. “But I have hope.”
Lacey and her family have been accepted to the The St. Bernard Project’s Rebuilding Program, but we do not have sufficient funds to make the repairs. For about $10,000, necessary repairs can be completed and the Carcamo children can have a safe home to live in while they await the return of their father.