Teaming Up to Help Residents Find Work

"After spending your whole life working every day, it's pretty hard when you don't have a job," he said. "I don't know how long we'll stay -- it could be six months, it could be a year, but we'll eventually go back. New Orleans is my home, and there's no other place like it."

Many Groups Organizing Hiring Events

Goodwill has held similar job fairs in Houston, San Antonio and Austin, Texas, and has plans for an upcoming event in Washington. The Austin and Shreveport fairs each placed more than 200 people in new jobs.

A job fair in Atlanta hosted by the United Way last week drew more than 15,000 applicants and had to be shut down early because of the overwhelming response. Some of the attendees were local residents looking for work, but a United Way spokesman said there have been talks about organizing another event.

The Labor Department has set up an online job bank for hurricane survivors, called the Hurricane Recovery Job Connection, that currently lists more than 80,000 open jobs. The site can be accessed at www.jobsearch.org/hurricanejobs or through America's Job Bank at www.ajb.org.

The Labor Department has also helped organize more than 50 small job fairs with local business groups and chambers of commerce.

Goodwill set up an online job bank in conjunction with member companies of America's Health Insurance Plans, an insurance industry trade group. The listings can be accessed by going to www.goodwill.org and looking for jobs in a specific area code.

Goodwill spokeswoman Christine Bragale said most of the employers who offered jobs online and at the fairs understand the temporary needs of applicants who have been displaced.

"Some people have walked off of jobs after several weeks and are presumed to have gone home. But employers that want to hire understand that they need to be flexible. They recognize that what people really need is a paycheck," she said.

Some Are Relocating Permanently

But not everyone is thinking short term.

Frank Liberto, 60, a New Orleans lawyer for 35 years, chose to stay behind when his wife and daughter evacuated to Fort Worth, Texas, before Katrina. His home was located just 10 blocks from the flooded 17th Street Canal in the Lakeview section of New Orleans. By the second day after Katrina, water had climbed above the first floor and he realized it was probably time to leave.

Liberto attached a sheet to a pool cue and hung it out a second-story window to flag down help. He was rescued by firemen passing by in a flat-bottomed boat and evacuated to the Astrodome. He caught a bus to Shreveport, where his brother lives.

Realizing that law firms were unlikely to be setting up booths to hire evacuated lawyers, Liberto went to the Shreveport job fair with an open mind.

"I was willing to do anything -- be a teacher or anything else. Really anything," he said.

A local lawyer volunteering at one of the relief events mentioned that if anyone knew of any displaced lawyers, he'd be willing to consider hiring one. A Salvation Army employee got in touch with Liberto's brother, and they set up an interview. He was hired and is now writing briefs and researching plaintiff's cases for the Jack Bailey Law Corp.

For Liberto, the decision on whether to return to New Orleans may not be his own. His home is likely destroyed, along with the two cars in the garage and a beloved family sailboat. The cost of rebuilding and replacing everything, he said, may be too great. But instead of complaining, he said he feels lucky to have a job, making it easier to start over.

"There may not be any place for us to go actually," Liberto said. "The reality is that Shreveport might be my home now. I'm happy just to have a place to be and be working in the law again."

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