Clinton Offers Help, Hope To Gulfport Storm Victims

Mae Norwood has specific needs to rebuild her storm damaged Gulfport home.

"Don't buy me a trailer. Buy me sheet rock, and some plywood to put my house back together," she said.

Norwood wasn't supposed to be part of a neighborhood discussion hosted by former President Bill Clinton. But she spoke just loud enough to be recognized by the last democrat in the White House.

"We want our homes. We want our walls. We want our roofs. We want our own furniture. We want our help like we're supposed to have," she told the President.

When asked what the former President Clinton could do to make that happen, she said, "Whatever he can do."

Mr. Clinton and Governor Barbour came to Gulfport and provided support for Hurricane Katrina victims, many of whom lost everything when flood waters destroyed homes miles off the beach.

"The government, I think, has a responsibility to help them, because a lot of those that don't have flood insurance don't have it because they were told they were outside the flood plain," he said.

During his visit to Gulfport, the former president walked past homeowners who still had hurricane debris next to mailboxes. Yet while Clinton was there, they seemed more concerned with getting an autograph or a picture than with cleaning up Ohio Avenue.

Mr. Clinton knew that wasn't the case at all.

"I think basically people in this neighborhood, they're doing a great job, and I just hope we can help," he said. "We're just going to have to work through this. Do whatever we can as quick as we can to help people move back to normal."

Clinton's real impact in this neighborhood will come later, when the Bush Clinton Katrina Fund doles out nearly $100 million in private contributions to communities the federal government can't reach.

"We will be funding very specific things. And then we will check to see whether we got out of it what we were told in every state," he said.

Mae Norwood had this advice for the two former presidents and their private hurricane relief efforts.

"Don't put it in hands that eat it up. Put it in materials to come out here and fix what's needed," she said.

After his tour of Forest Heights, Mr. Clinton met with two dozen Gulfport business leaders. And he told them the same thing. The Bush Clinton Katrina Relief Fund will basically fill in gaps. So if the government can't pay for a relief project, private donations will cover those costs.

Clinton said his partner in the Bush Clinton Katrina Relief effort will be on the coast next week. Where former President Bush visits hasn't been released yet.