NOLA: Housing

In the shifting hierarchy of things newsworthy, I suppose New Orleans' time is up. There are snippets here and there, referential factoids in the face of more recent, more local flooding. Or in the case of one news story I saw last week, "What will FEMA do with all these trailers that didn't make it to New Orleans?" Then a subsequent commercial break in which I had time to fume and fester, time to gather thoughts for another lame, ranting ink-attack. But it seems as though FEMA, in all its generosity (and PR spin, I'm sure) has decided to donate those unused trailers to those in need on Native American reservations.How the FUCK can I be pissed about that.No matter, there's plenty left to become righteously indignant about. Righteously, indignantly so.So let's forgo the blow-by-blow, day-by-day mock up of my feelings, of what it was like, the pretty construction of my wish for you to live vicariously through the little that I could do and let's do something about it instead. Words and pictures only get you so far and I have yet to figure out where my loyalties lie. I'll have to save the journal entries for another use.Right now, with commemorative "celebrations" perched just under two months away, thousands of New Orleanians face further hardship and homelessness, if they aren't without shelter already. To celebrate, and further illustrate what this administration thinks of the poor, HUD has announced the end of the Disaster Voucher Program on September 31st. This, without planning ahead or thinking of what the fall-out might be. This, while barring the return to low-income housing by keeping that housing closed. This, with a giant "Fuck You, we got you out. Now stay out" souvenir t-shirt.By some estimates, the homeless population has swelled to nearly three times what it was pre-Katrina due to rising housing costs, bureaucracy, skewed priorities, and of course, money...the lack of it and the pursuit of it. Housing rates have nearly doubled. It seems that those who CAN get home, find they can't afford it.So what is New Orleans without its people? What good are marble-lined curbs leading to police-patrolled distilled debauchery to someone who sleeps in their car? And why should we allow New Orleans, though we may live hundreds of miles away, to turn into merely a tourist destination, not a fully-functioning city? This should have been an opportunity to better the already poor population, to come together and stop our fellow citizens from sinking into the swamps, not watch as they/we gentrify, bulldoze, and ignore.So in light of the fact that there's little, physically, I can do until Fall Break, there is always the reading, the signing, the writing. I hope you join me....(please scroll to the bottom) [Here are all the photos.][1][Petition to Protect Public Housing][2][Amnesty International's Petition][3][Survivors Village][4][Information from Common Ground][5] [1]: http://www.flickr.com/photos/j_ensley... [2]: http://www.congressweb.com/cweb4/index.cfm?orgcode=tpp&hotissue=19 [3]: http://takeaction.amnestyusa.org/site/c.goJTI0OvElH/b.1805297/k.7AD2/Hurricane_Katrina_petition/apps/ka/ct/contactus.asp?c=goJTI0OvElH&b=1805297&en=llLRJ4OSKhIPJ2NKIaJWLbMXImLYLdOUIqLXIeO6KzH [4]: http://www.survivorsvillage.com/main.html [5]: http://www.commongroundrelief.org/node/524

Comments

lazz 15 years, 4 months ago

a couple of questions linger for me; jill, since you've been there and are obviously much more informed, i'd appreciate your insights:

you are p'd off at the general state of affairs down there, and surely rightly so, and with your photographs and on-site reporting you show us a picture of a city that is still in chaos; yet the city and state leaders have ad campaigns on heavy rotation promoting the good ol' party town we've always loved. clearly they need the tourists to come back, in force, for their own internal economy; should tourists not go and party it up? (assuming that it would be difficult to whoop it up in new orleans' famous carefree manner if one were also emotionally wrecked by the post-hurricane troubles). Where's the balance, and what are we to do with the message that new orleans itself is sending out -- something close to, it's all good!

also, new orleans was generally considered to be the most ineptly -- CERTAINLY one of, at least -- managed city governments in the country, a disaster waiting to happen, at countless levels. And then disaster DOES happen. It starts to feel old and utterly inappropriate for this to be continually laid at the soiled hands and incompetence of FEMA. Yeah, FEMA blew it, big time. But the city has been a cesspool of corruption long before Katrina, and by the reports of fraud that have hampered every step of recovery, continues to be a cesspool of corruption. It feels like New Orleans is getting a free pass on this count. I don't think I'm alone when I say that my sympathy is tempered by the reality of pre-Katrina New Orleans, and I don't think I'm alone in that. As for the notion that the troubles have been widely forgotten, what about the rest of the Gulf Coast, which felt overlooked from the start?

OtherJoel 15 years, 4 months ago

So what you're saying, Lazz, is that we need to focus our efforts on returning New Orleans to its former glory in the areas that truly matter -- beads and boobs. YEAH!

I'm an ass; I know this.

lazz 15 years, 4 months ago

well, yeah, i guess i am saying that, otherjoel. or not. hell i don't know.

i guess what i'm asking is, do we maintain the outrage and keep up with these noble efforts to keep the ongoing devastation in everybody's mind, or do we follow the lead being put out by New Orleans and Louisiana themselves and say, hey, it's all good, let's party and forget about all this unpleasantness? Mixed messages, I s'ppose is what I'm saying ...

Terry Bush 15 years, 4 months ago

I thought thread killer was my designated status?

I am on record as being a HUGE fan of the city. Not just for partying. NOLA is/was like no other place I've visited in the USA. I hope there is some way of salvaging the best parts of the city, while learning lessons about how not to repeat past mistakes.

lazz 15 years, 4 months ago

couldn't agree more, ladylaw, 'cept if you think about it, if new orleans doesn't repeat its mistakes then it won't be new orleans again, will it? ... i mean, it wasn't called Big Easy 'cause it spent a lot of time and worry over getting things right ...

OtherJoel 15 years, 4 months ago

That earlier comment (beads and boobs) was intended to be purely silly. The one time I visited New Orleans, I really loved it for a multitude of reasons that have little to do with Mardi Gras (I was there in December, for one thing) -- the music, the art, the history, architecture, voodoo, etc., etc.. But it is a really fun town for getting blotto too. I'm not judging.

I certainly don't think there's anything wrong with trying to improve conditions there. New Orleans v2.0 could, theoretically, be just as fun for tourists while being more liveable for the residents -- I would think. Nothing wrong with trying at least.

thetomdotdot 15 years, 4 months ago

Thread killer or no,Terry, the planet becomes a little more neutral when you don't comment.

Terry Bush 15 years, 4 months ago

Yea Lazz - I knew I might be asking for contradictory outcomes. Still, I can hope can't I? What I love(d) about NOLA was/is the food, the music, the history, the architecture, and the diverse cultures of so many of NOLA's people. What I didn't love (and still don't) was/is the rampant corruption (political and personal) and high crime rate (against both persons and property). I would hope we/they could save the like list while making a dent in doing in the other dislike list. Maybe that's not possible. But one can hope....

And thetomdotdot, ar you saying that I am non-neutral?

thetomdotdot 15 years, 4 months ago

Terry, No, I'm not saying that, though it's probably true. I'm saying don't pay attention to that thread killer crap.

thetomdotdot 15 years, 4 months ago

NOLA will never be the same. The IDEA of NOLA evolved over time, and that NOLA is gone forever. Part of the charm was an almost erotic suspense wondering what will happen when the levee breaks. Even thats gone, now that the mystery is over.

NOLA now (for me) evokes the image of empty rotting house of an entire population displaced while we bemoan the passing of a hustlers free for all.

lpflaum 15 years, 4 months ago

I want to preface everything i write here by saying the following: I grew up in overland park kansas, and moved to new orleans, to attend tulane, in the summer of 03. I lived through katrina, i lost everything, i spent a semester at KU, and i returned.

Yes, New Orleans is different. No, it will never be the same. That having been said, every single soul in that city is fighting tooth and nail for what we lost. I encourage everyone to go visit, really. The french quarter, most of downtown, and a large portion of the uptown/garden district look almost untouched since 8-29-05, as if the storm never happened. Although the crime rate has skyrocketed, most of it is criminal on criminal. A turf war to regain lost markets, and gain new ones, has exploded. The people are still there, with the same attitudes they've always had. Commanders, Camelia Grille, Domilise's and most other restaurants have reopened. The architecture is still there, although in many parts of town, most of which you (meaning tourists) would never have seen before the storm anyway, are still in ruins. What our city (yes, my city. My home) needs so deperately is our economy back, and economy fueled almost entirely by tourism. The corruption might be fixed, it might not, that's something for the residents of New Orleans to decide, they're voting. Realistically, if it hadn't been for the actions of a few shady religious folks, who I won't name here, we would have Mayor Landrieu right now, that to me indicates a want, and a willingness to create a better new orleans. And it is something worth fighting for. I left New Orleans after i finished school because I was tired of living in fear. I, like many, suffered from psychological problems that were ignored until the weeks before i left, I needed out. I've been back in Kansas for six weeks now, and I would give anything... ANYTHING to go home. I guess what I'm trying to say is that the only way we can change what's happening there now, is to fuel the economy. And in case you can't go down and do it directly, I'll provide you with some links, things you can buy there, and have sent here, that would help us all out just a little... evanscreolecandy.com (yummy pralines!) cafedumone.com (buy the coffee and the beignet mix) gumboshop.com (arguably the best gumbo in NO) livecrawfish.com (have a crawfish boil this weekend!)

If you have any questions about the city i would be happy to act as an ambassador for the place i will forever call home. laury.pflaum@gmail.com

Terry Bush 15 years, 4 months ago

Count me in = for shopping and visiting! I don't get to take many vacations but I put NOLA at the top of my lists of vacation spots, and have for years. Commanders is the BEST around (IMO) but I always try out new things too, every trip. That said, I'll have to talk my husband into it...he's read too much about the crime rates.....

Home for me is not about the place. It's about the people. If you love who you are with, you love where you are.

Jill Ensley 15 years, 4 months ago

Sorry I don't respond in a more timely manner. I really hate sitting in front of the computer sometimes. Really, really.

lazz, I'm pissed off at the general state of affairs everywhere. New Orleans just magnifies it, lays it bare if you're willing to look.

Here's the thing, I fully understand that NOLA's economy was/is based on tourism. Shit, it's like the Made In China conundrum. While I hate the low-paying, horrible nature of most of those factory jobs, do I boycott and cause people to lose their jobs? Indeed, where is the happy medium? Do I rail against tourists for giving the economy a boost when the city so obviously needs money? But where does that money go? Surely it's not going where it needs to go or 2 years later, whole neighborhoods wouldn't still be in shambles. There's a priority problem here. For me, personally, I think if you're going to go down and feed the machine, you should at least spend some time trying to fix the parts. You know?
Spend as much time knocking back bloody mary's at Lafitte's as you do knocking nails into boards. We can't just rely on money to fix our problems all the time. That's how this mess got started in the first place.

As for the second question, I think it's been addressed by a few people already. But in regards to the rest of the Gulf Coast, I can't claim "expertise", nor can I claim it in NOLA, but I really don't think they've had as much trouble as parts of New Orleans. Show me whole, mostly black mind you, sections of other Gulf Coast cities and maybe I'll change my mind.

I simply fear NOLA will like Disneyland, the "happiest place on earth" surrounded by miserable white fuckers...but at least those Orange Co. bastards have money.

Jill Ensley 15 years, 4 months ago

lpflaum, thank you for commenting. It's nice to have a fresh voice with some first-hand insight. But, with all due respect, don't claim ambassadorship just yet.

That said, this is not a pissing contest about who knows NOLA more intimately. Because I don't think either of us is ready to receive the key to the city. I simply think we, meaning me, you, everyone, can do better. I still think we can do better than throwing money down the political well. I would say that the people who need more support, are not the New Orleans institutions, but those on the outside. We have to look at the big picture. You can't just buy some pralines, puff out your chest, and think you've done your part. Paying attention to where this money goes is key. Paying attention to what is NOT being said, NOT being done is even more important. Yes, take your vacations, buy your beignet mix, but if you possibly can, lift a hammer, talk to people, cross canals, write letters. Corruption and greed is not confined to the city limits.

By the way, it's Cafe Du Monde, and I think they're doing okay. And if you want to move back, why don't you? I'm going back in the Fall and would be more than happy to have you along. I am completely serious.

thetomdotdot 15 years, 4 months ago

"The people are still there, with the same attitudes they've always had. Commanders, Camelia Grille, Domilise's and most other restaurants have reopened. The architecture is still there, although in many parts of town, most of which you (meaning tourists) would never have seen before the storm anyway, are still in ruins."

The people are still there? Estimates give currently (July 2007) about 57% of the pre-Katrina population. I guess that makes about 200,00 people that don't matter. And the architecture? Don't worry our pretty little heads about the parts of town we wouldn't have visited as tourists?

I'm sorry, lpflaum. I know you've had a rough couple of years. Your perspective is interesting because of your first-hand experience. But until I see an effort to support the displaced citizens of NOLA, the city is dead to me.

Jill Ensley 15 years, 4 months ago

thetom, you make words say things good, more better than me.

Jill Ensley 15 years, 4 months ago

Phew. I have to stop writing blogs, or saying things, that make me cringe every time I see there's a new comment. I am gun-shy.

OtherJoel 15 years, 4 months ago

HEY! THERE'S A SPIDER ON YOUR BACK.

Signed,

Person who Sees Kids in the Hall References Everywhere.

OtherJoel 15 years, 4 months ago

Oh, and on the trailer thing: I just heard on the evening news that the current residents of the FEMA trailers are now getting cancer and other illnesses from them (something about formaldehyde (sp?) in the carpet glue and such). And now they're sending the spares to the rez, eh? I guess we now have our reason to get pissed at FEMA. Again.

You're welcome.

Jill Ensley 15 years, 4 months ago

Wait, didn't we intentionally poison Native Americans enough already?

Just asking.

DOTDOT 15 years, 4 months ago

I didn't know FEMA laid carpet.

Just saying.

OtherJoel 15 years, 4 months ago

A fair point, .., but I think FEMA are still the ones getting sued.

DOTDOT 15 years, 4 months ago

I'd like to see Brownie behind a knee kicker. Real work and all. "Heck of a job, boy." Yuk yuk.

My curiosity about trailer construction and formaldahyde and lawsuits led me to suspect it wouldn't take me long to find a site like this:

http://www.toxicfematrailer.com/html/lawsuit.html

Take "fema" off the phrase "fema trailer" and put a stopwatch on how long it takes for these lawsuits to evaporate.

Poof.

Just me.

dom 15 years, 4 months ago

Myths of people getting sick from carpet have gone on since the early 1900s. The fact is carpet itself does not cause cancer. Nor the glue used to adhere the backing to the pile. The stuff that gets in carpet, as well as moisture trapped in the backing, (which propagates mold), make a person or animal sick. They are in a damp climate, and I doubt many of them saved vacuum cleaners from a previous residence. Plus many are over crowded which speeds the process. This suit has been brought to court many times. Not a one has won a case.

I used to clean carpet for a living. (no jokes please) People used to fear the chemicals we used in the home. Honestly if you put any of the chemicals used for carpet cleaning up against a household chemical, the household is always worse for you. Normal bleach is ten times stronger than any thing I could legally bring in. What do you want to bet that these people are stuck using bleach or other similar chemicals to clean with. Over use of these will slowly kill you.

I said "pile".

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