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Some Katrina Victims Must Leave Trailers

From a heartbroken New York Times:

Laura Hilton with her grandson, Leander, at the Renaissance Trailer Park in Baker, La. Ms. Hilton, 45, has been denied federal assistance because FEMA was unable to verify her pre-hurricane address.

Holdouts at FEMA Trailer Park Test Aid’s Limits

By SHAILA DEWAN
June 7, 2008

BAKER, La. — … The closing of Renaissance Village, near Baton Rouge, and the other remaining FEMA parks represents the final chapter in one of the largest and most tumultuous efforts by the federal government to provide emergency housing to a displaced population. Over the course of two years and nine months, the Federal Emergency Management Agency put up 9,000 families in trailer parks scattered around the Gulf area, where residents endured cramped, inadequate and often poisonous conditions

Those remaining are the hardest to help, posing the toughest test of the oft-repeated promise that the recovery from Hurricane Katrina would at least offer the opportunity to rectify the social ills the storm exposed.

Reason holds little sway over the residents of this microcosm. Some of those most in need have proved to be, out of pride or paranoia, the least likely to accept help. Those who under normal circumstances have little leverage have become the most demanding holdouts. Those ill-equipped for real-world survival cling with surprising tenacity to the place they have come to think of as home…

Though the government has failed these residents in many ways and for many years, in the final weeks ample assistance has been available — from gas money and food vouchers to utility deposits and hotel rooms, even for those technically ineligible for FEMA assistance. Catholic Charities has helped with furniture and deposits; the Capitol Area Alliance for the Homeless has offered rent subsidies for those who are ineligible. Sister Judith has delivered groceries and arranged rides, sympathized and scolded, strategically dispensed small wads of cash to plug the gaps in the system.

Yet for all that, to follow the last residents as they are dragged toward self-sufficiency is to witness a clanging, screeching streetcar of human and bureaucratic limitations that seems to lurch backward as often as forward

Laura Hilton, 45, was clutching a lease for a four-bedroom home in New Orleans for $1,650 a month. Her income, in the form of government disability payments, is $1,600 a month

FEMA, which ultimately is a disaster-response agency, not a social service department, endured years of blistering criticism for its failure to understand that many New Orleans residents needed more than just a roof over their heads after the hurricane. The agency now is quick to admit that other agencies are better equipped to handle persistent social ills. Its job in cases like that of Ms. August, FEMA officials say, is limited to getting her housed.

Still, in its awkward fashion, the agency designed a gradual transition for residents from the parks and government care, offering an intermediate step of a 30-day hotel stay. After residents spend the first month in an apartment, the Disaster Housing Assistance Program, administered by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, would kick in, paying the full rent until March 1, 2009

But each phase presents an opportunity for failure as well as success. What happens to those in hotels who still have not found housing at the end of 30 days? What happens to those who, come March, are in apartments too expensive to afford on their own? What about those who, for various reasons, are already ineligible for rental assistance?

At least 30 families or individuals living in Renaissance Village in its final weeks fell into the last category: Mr. Love because he could not account for the $800 FEMA gave him for rental assistance right after the storm; Ms. London because she opted to leave after her boyfriend, whose criminal record includes arrests for burglary and drug possession with intent to distribute, was banned from the park; Ms. Hilton, who can barely read, because FEMA was unable to verify her pre-storm address

Ms. London, who eventually moved to a $900-a-month house subsidized by the Homeless Alliance, acknowledged how easy it would have been to stay in the trailer park and remain dependent.

“Being in that trailer, having all that stuff, it was like we became crippled,” she said. “You had free rent; you didn’t have to worry about light bills.” …

There are some families that have been literally riven in the course of the park’s closing. Right after the storm, Joseph Griffin and his girlfriend, Sherryl Harris, lived in a trailer with Mr. Griffin’s sons, Jamal and Jermaine. The boys worked with the art therapists who came periodically to the park, and Jermaine was selected for a scholarship to Idyllwild Arts summer camp in California…

Not every case seems as difficult, however. Gloria Martin, 51, was prescribed psychiatric medication after the storm for, she said, “hearing voices.” When the medication was stolen, she began to get arrested — once for standing in the middle of the road at night, another time for getting into a fight at the food stamp office. She lost her FEMA eligibility when she went to prison.

But Sister Judith’s team found her a place at Connections for Life, a yearlong program in Baton Rouge for female ex-offenders. On move-in day, Ms. Martin moved like a person in shock. One week later, she was radiant, cheerfully working at the Connections for Life thrift store, where she helped a one-eyed man find window shades.

“I had never had nothing like this happen to me before,” she said. “A free apartment and a job, free clothes and shoes, and eating good. And sleeping good.”

Despite the headline, this is merely the latest installment in the nearly three year old ‘get out your handkerchief’ serial about the poor victims of Katrina from the New York Times.

Those remaining are the hardest to help, posing the toughest test of the oft-repeated promise that the recovery from Hurricane Katrina would at least offer the opportunity to rectify the social ills the storm exposed.

Really? Who made these repeated promises? The editors of The Times?

Some of those most in need have proved to be, out of pride or paranoia, the least likely to accept help…

Oddly enough, none of those people seemed to be mentioned in the article. Everyone the reporter references seems only too eager to accept help. In fact, they are demanding more, even if they aren’t entitled to it.

Indeed, the piece seems to only mention people, who by some miracle, have been caught defrauding the system and who are now being given slightly fewer benefits from FEMA. (Though, as the reporter notes, there are plenty of other organizations offering aid.)

And there would even seem to be some confusion about that. For while the caption to Ms. Hilton’s photo above claims she has been “denied benefits” due to FEMA being unable to verify her pre-Katrina address, it would appear she is still getting some assistance for her “disabilities”:

Laura Hilton, 45, was clutching a lease for a four-bedroom home in New Orleans for $1,650 a month. Her income, in the form of government disability payments, is $1,600 a month…

What a terrible injustice. (Needless to say, renting a smaller house is out of the question.)

Moreover, these rent subsidies themselves are terribly limited:

After residents spend the first month in an apartment, the Disaster Housing Assistance Program, administered by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, would kick in, paying the full rent until March 1, 2009.

They might end their free rent programs only four years after Katrina?

What cruelty.

Luckily, the Democrats and their messiah have sworn to perpetuate such largess forever.

This article was posted by Steve on Saturday, June 7th, 2008. Comments are currently closed.

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