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  • August 29, 2015

The Sun Chronicle : Features

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Katrina-scattered families rebuild separately and together

<p>Rene "Sleepy" Washington stands outside his po boy sandwich shop in Houston on Friday, Aug. 28, 2015. Chevelle Washington's brother offers fellow Katrina refugees a taste of home, right down to the French loaves from Leidenheimer's Bakery in New Orleans. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)</p>

Rene "Sleepy" Washington stands outside his po boy sandwich shop in Houston on Friday, Aug. 28, 2015. Chevelle Washington's brother offers fellow Katrina refugees a taste of home, right down to the French loaves from Leidenheimer's Bakery in New Orleans. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)

HOUSTON (AP) - Bunk beds dominate the narrow living room of Chevelle Washington's modest three-bedroom brick townhouse apartment. A large box in the corner is piled high with kids' shoes. The 51-year-old is raising six of her grandchildren. Her home is a refuge, a haven.

It was that way back in her native New Orleans, too - never so much as on Aug. 29, 2005, when Hurricane Katrina struck.

"I had 21 people at my house," she says of that horrible night. "Because I had an up- and downstairs."

The water rushing through the city's breached floodwalls climbed all 17 of those front stairs, stopping just below the porch. It had receded to the 11th step by the following day, when a uniformed man appeared in a motorized flatboat.

As their anonymous savior steered the craft into the lake that the Upper Ninth Ward had become, Washington burst into tears.

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