Hurricane Katrina: New York Restaurant Manager Recalls Evacuation

"Our commitment to the Gulf Coast remains unwavering and our determination to bring to completion many of the projects is still underway," said Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano in a visit to the region in March 2009. "My goal is to eliminate the red tape, help rebuild now and rebuild the region stronger than ever."

The Obama administration has put $863 million toward 816 Louisiana recovery projects. More than 89,000 Louisiana households displaced by Katrina and 2005's Hurricane Rita, have found permanent housing. But as of early August, 1,768 of the state's households displaced by Katrina and Rita were still living in temporary housing, with 826 living there pending the purchase of a home or hoping to receive a donated unit.

The city also has embarked on the largest home elevation project in the country's history, spending $830 million this year, Stephens said, adding that New Orleans has an unemployment rate lower than the national average.

But whether a hurricane victim decides to return to New Orleans after the storm is an "extremely personal decision," she said.

For Mullen, he said he has "no regrets" starting over in New York.

"I'm hungry," he said. "Every time I wake up, I'm happy, I'm excited. I just can't wait to get out of bed, out of the apartment, and just get to work straight up and accomplish my goals."

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