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Dealing with Katrina and facing the future

Poll: Losing everything tops difficulties faced by survivors

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(CNN) -- Hurricane Katrina's survivors face homelessness, unemployment and worry-filled sleepless nights, according to a poll of those who sought relief from the Red Cross.

According to a CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll conducted in cooperation with the Red Cross, about a third of the 1,510 respondents were homeless, a quarter were out of work, and more than a fifth were still separated from at least one family member.

Roughly 60 percent said they had trouble sleeping and felt depressed; about two-thirds reported feeling anxiety. The most difficult thing cited? The loss of everything they owned. (See a report on the mental health of Katrina evacuees - 2:46)

The respondents came from a database maintained by the Red Cross of 463,172 households in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama that have contacted the agency looking for assistance.

The poll, taken by telephone between September 30 and October 9, had a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points, unless otherwise noted. For New Orleans respondents, the margin of error was 5 percentage points.

More than two-thirds of the poll's respondents said they evacuated before the hurricane. Nearly one in five people evacuated after the hurricane, and 15 percent chose to ride out the storm. (Click here for highlights from the opinion poll)

Most who did not evacuate before the storm hit -- 47 percent -- said they didn't think Katrina would be so bad. Only 8 percent of respondents said they had no transportation to get out. That question had a sampling error of plus or minus 6 percentage points.

Those polled were among the hardest hit by Katrina. About half are African-American and about 60 percent are female.

About a third had incomes below $20,000 last year, and while 31 percent were already unemployed, 6 percent said they had found a new job since the storm.

The Red Cross provided access to their data provided confidentiality of those who sought help was protected.

During the storm, about half of those polled -- or 53 percent -- said they feared for their life, and 73 percent said they were worried about the elderly.

Four in 10 went without food for at least a day and had vehicles damaged by the storm; a third said they had no water.

A quarter of the hardest hit said they stayed in a shelter; one in five said they lost a pet.

Only 6 percent of all respondents said they were physically injured, and just 7 percent reported being the victim of a crime.

In the aftermath of the storm, half the poll's respondents, or 51 percent, were separated from family members for at least a day.

While most have been reunited with all their family members since then, 22 percent say they were still separated from some family members. Seven percent said they still didn't know the whereabouts of at least one family member.

Among the parents polled, 6 percent were still separated from their children, and 16 percent said they had been separated but had since been reunited with their children, the poll said, citing a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points on that question.

Half of all respondents said they had returned to their homes or never left; of the remaining respondents, most were either staying in the homes of family or friends or renting apartments.

Most said they had been able to get through the difficult time with the help of family and friends as well as their faith in God.

The picture was grimmer for the respondents who lived in New Orleans.

Only 5 percent said they had returned to their homes, and half said they may never return to the community they originally came from.

Half of the respondents from New Orleans were looking for jobs, and six in 10 said their homes were either destroyed or so badly damaged they cannot live there. One in five said they didn't know what happened to their homes.

Of the respondents from New Orleans, 41 percent were living in someone else's home, 20 percent in a hotel or motel, and 30 percent in an apartment they had rented since the hurricane hit.

Four in 10 respondents were still separated from a family member, and 15 percent didn't know where some family members were.

Two-thirds of all respondents said they were worried about the next few months, but they were more optimistic about the next five years.

Sixty percent of those polled said they needed financial help, a place to stay or help with damages to their home.

While the Federal Emergency Management Agency was cited by nearly half as the most helpful government agency, FEMA also led responses among the least helpful government agencies.

A third of those polled rated the federal government response to the disaster as poor; 30 percent had the same to say for their state governments; and 21 percent for their mayors and local officials.

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