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Day 723: Poor Black Homelessness In Post-K/Flood New Orleans

This article in The Jewish Daily Forward* makes a more straightforward connection between being black and post-Katrina/Flood homelessness.  Jeffrey would argue that it’s not race but class, and I would also include the elderly. 

… One of the reasons for [the slow rebuilding of New Orleans] is the failure to rebuild the 77,000 destroyed rental units that once housed a large number of New Orleans’s poorest citizens. Nor is that failure the product of neglect; in many cases, it is quite purposeful.

“Rental units” at a price poor people can afford, built in the neighborhoods where they would be best insulated from natural calamity, would intrude on the middle class character of the housing. According to The New York Times, “at least five jurisdictions in Louisiana and Mississippi — St. Bernard, St. John the Baptist and Jefferson parishes in Louisiana, and Pascagoula and Ocean Springs in Mississippi — have begun revoking permits for trailers or allowing their zoning exemptions to expire.” Those moves affect families still living in 7,400 trailers across the Gulf Coast — at the same time that there is money in place to build only 1,000 new affordable rental units.

Race, anyone? There’s no readily available racial census of the remaining 30,000 evacuees, but the informed estimates tell us that at least 90% of them are black. And we know their fate: Come the annual anniversary of the disaster, they’ll get their 15 minutes of attention and we will cluck our tongues once more, very sincerely.

Is the author trying to say that the one thing New Orleans’s poor haven’t lost is their invisibility?  Funny, I’d swear that invisible is exactly how the New Rebuilding Order keeps them, especially when it’s all about wholesale home and neighborhood demolitions invariably pointing to questionable ideas and schemes on redevelopment, rising insurance and construction costs that deter rental housing constructioncondos “football” condos, golf courses and plans carved into redevelopment zones6000 more invisible in New Orleans in the last two years while the rest cannot afford to move out of their tin cans due to the increased cost of housing is more like it.  Which government agency now involved in rebuilding this area cares about, much less prioritizes, affordable housing?  FEMA?  HUD?  The Road Home agency?  NORA?  HANO?  The mayor?  Ed Blakely?  Invisible man?

So far, I’ve questioned the availability of affordable housing in general, but now address low- to no-Income housing, more specifically. A colleague and I recently talked about the status of government-funded housing in this city, while staring out at the Iberville projects and Treme.  Not an American citizen, he asked, “This may sound naive, but now we have nothing but land and space in New Orleans.  Instead of housing loads of low-income families in cheerless bunkers, why does HANO not build more mixed-income neighborhoods like River Garden, where people will then own more of their home, yards and not everything is public space?”  I explained to him exactly what I said above, and then frankly stated, “The best interest of citizens, whether it is to progress them out of the projects or to help house them in any way, is really low on the recovery priority list now, or so it seems.  I don’t know what HANO’s or Road Home’s plans are in this process.  Meanwhile, more and more homeless are being created and that is not a forward-moving trend.”

Something is terribly wrong with the equation if rising material costs keep the authorities from building modest housing but not football condos and golf courses.  We’ve got to find out who really calls the housing shots around here and nail that agency’s ass to the drywall.  Between outrageous housing assessments and this mess, how can Mayor Nagin fly into town every once in a while and plead with ex-residents to come home?

* For some reason, I’ve begun to take more interest in Jewish viewpoints and relief efforts in this region.  Must be Liprap‘s influence or me channeling my inner HinJew.

2 comments… add one
  • liprap August 22, 2007, 5:57 PM

    Hee! These ain’t strictly Jewish influences. The Forward’s earliest publishing years were as a distinctive Yiddish leftist-socialist paper that was bought mainly by Jewish Bundists. The Forward has had to braoden its base in recent decades to stay afloat and relevant in a world in which Jewish folks are losing any knowledge and/or fluency in that mamaloshen – Yiddish.

    The one who will be keeping Yiddish alive these days, unless something is done, are the haredim who live in Meah Shearim in Jerusalem and many other orthodox sects that live all over the world. Kind of a shame, since most of the great Yiddish literature is stuff that will most likely be banned by said orthodox sects for its content.

    Having said THAT, this article sadly calls up the fact that most folks still don’t ultimately have a CLUE about what is going on down here unless they have been here or are living here. Then again, even some of the ones who have been here can still walk away clueless. Urgh.

  • liprap August 22, 2007, 10:15 PM

    And as for the HinJew thing, I do have a friend in NYC whose last name is Schaechter-Viswanath. Her kids speak Tamil, Yiddish, and English. Such naches!

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