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Day 943: How Can You Afford Your FEMA Trailer Lifestyle?

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.

NOLA.com: N.O. may set June 1 trailer deadline

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.

7 comments… add one
  • GentillyGirl March 28, 2008, 3:27 PM

    Thanks Darlin’. I tried to write on this last night, but I kept reaching the keyboard banging stage and then just broke down crying.

    Betts and I can do away with our trailer before the deadline, but most folks cannot. They are stuck in limbo whilst the bastards and bimbettes in City Hall twitter their fingers.

    I think it’s time for another Public March and this time we bring the pitchforks and torches.

  • rcs March 28, 2008, 3:51 PM

    Hmm. The article states quite clearly that:

    New Orleans residents still living in travel trailers may have to vacate them by June 1, unless they can prove to City Hall that their rebuilding plans or other circumstances make that timeline impossible, two city officials said Wednesday.


    the city deadline would target people who simply don’t want to leave or are living in trailers illegally

    Maybe “lifestyle choice” isn’t the best phrase but it seems clear, at least from the article, that they’re not looking to throw out people who can make a reasonable case that they’re waiting on rebuilding issues. So what’s the big deal here?

  • Maitri March 28, 2008, 4:00 PM

    It’s pointless posturing, rcs, how many folks do you think live in trailers who are unwilling to leave? What about renters who have no affordable place to rent and are doubling or tripling up with family members? This is yet another paperwork hoop to have to prove to government that you are worthy of living on your own property. A waste of city planning resources and a bad way to build goodwill in a very touchy city.

    Also, no city referendum/deadline is going to hasten the exit of those illegally squatting in trailers in the absence of enforcement. That can be done quietly without such language.

  • rcs March 28, 2008, 4:23 PM

    Maitr, the plural of “anecdote” is not “data.” How many people do you think are in trailers who aren’t supposed to be there in the first place? What about contractors housing workers illegally and unsafely?

    Also, I’m not a lawyer but it seems like this ordinance is being introduced to partially rescind the one that waived the pre-K placement regs (permitting widespread use of the trailers) and as such is the first step in starting the enforcement process. Otherwise, what’s the alternative? Leave the things there for another two years?

  • Maitri March 28, 2008, 4:56 PM

    How many people do you think are in trailers who aren’t supposed to be there in the first place? What about contractors housing workers illegally and unsafely?

    Then address them separately instead of introducing a widespread adoption of a June 1st deadline. Those still living in trailers legally ought not to be subjected to yet more paperwork, based on an arbitrary deadline. This “squatters” argument is a straw man on the part of city officials to prove they’re doing something.

    Instead of hastening the rebuilding infrastructure required to get people out of their trailers, the onus is now on the people in the trailers. This is death by paperwork. How many more lines will people have to stand in and how many more inspections will they have to suffer through just to prove that they are trying to get back in their homes? It will only keep them from doing the work to get out of the trailers.

  • bayoustjohndavid March 29, 2008, 1:32 AM

    Are you interested in denouncing the ordinance or in vilifying Head? “Blows kisses” was a cheap shot. That was stupid on her part, but it was in response to people who were yelling all kinds of personal insults and obscenities.

    The real issue, IMO, isn’t whether Head said something offensive, but how onerous the appeals process will be. Considering what we’ve seen with home demolitions, you don’t need to crucify Head for her choice of words to make your case.

  • Tim March 29, 2008, 11:10 PM

    I have a friend who was living in a VA home pre-K and now lives in a FEMA travel trailer in the driveway of his niece’s house in Terrytown. The VA has sold the building and told him it will be years before they open any homes here. Where is he supposed to go? I agree that the Council is swatting mosquitoes with a hammer.



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