If you read nothing else, this is my point: Immediately on hearing of this city ordinance, I knew it came with an appeals process. This, to me, is more egregious than the arbitrary June 1st deadline. If squatters are the problem, address them separately using law enforcement and immediate trailer confiscation. As for those legally in trailers, don’t saddle them with the onus of standing in more lines to prove they are worthy of a tin can on their front lawn. This is slow death by paperwork. Stacey Head’s choice of words is simply insult to injury.
New Orleanians in trailers, rich and poor, had pre-flood lives that have since irreversibly changed, but they make do. A cramped metal box sitting on your front lawn that is poisoned with formaldehyde is not a lifestyle choice. It’s something you get used to and make into a home in the absence of a “normal” one. Imagine if, after almost three years of waiting on FEMA, contractors, the Road Home, unreasonably-high rents, contaminated land and the slow pace of every single repair and amenity in this town, you and your family are evicted from the only semblance of shelter available.
Therefore, when Ed Blakely states that “we do not want to be trailer city” and the councilwoman I elected, Stacy Head, blows kisses at protesting citizens and then follows up, in the most patronizing manner, with “at what point are we going to say New Orleans is not a place where you can live in a trailer as a lifestyle choice,” I respond:
Do you think any New Orleanian purposely lives in unsafe and poisonous sardine cans on their front lawns because the alternative is finished or available? Are people putting their lives and the lives of their children and parents at risk of formaldehyde poisoning, invasion and the elements because it’s the cool new thing to do?
What have you two done to expedite the process by which trailer dwellers get the Road Home funds and trustworthy contractors necessary to get back into their homes? What provisions have you made for renters in trailers to lease affordable places now that rents have skyrocketed? Do you have a program in place that evicts “squatters” and removes existing abandoned FEMA trailers? Nothing, none and no. Given the absence of such forward-moving action by yourselves, the elected and decidedly more powerful, you have the nerve to blame citizens for conditions that you helped fester. Then, you dictate that they evict themselves from yet another home.
A part of me believes that you are weak and powerless, too, and that this is the projection of your helplessness onto the people you were elected to serve. How crude, how immature, how provincial. Another suspicion is that by evicting citizens out of trailers, their homes remain unfinished and are consequently condemned, demolished and redeveloped or sold back to Road Home, transferred to the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority and then redeveloped.
My ninety-one-year-old grandmother’s cancer is back, but she lives in Ohio in a warm home with transportation and access to good healthcare. What if she were currently in an Orleans Parish trailer, waiting endlessly on her home to be rebuilt, while she lacks the health and youth to “get on with it” and deal with the attendant bureaucracy? Would you kick her out of the trailer come June? That’s how a woman wants to end her long life, you know, with a FEMA-trailer lifestyle and eviction notices on her wooden and metal homes.
For the taxes such a woman has paid over the course of her life, give her three FEMA trailers she can put anywhere on her property that she damned well pleases and shut your mouth.