Sunday, January 01, 2006

Keep those trailers out.

Nation: Heartbreaking? Yes. A huge surprise? not at all. Would I have the same complaints and say no to trailer parks around my area? Absolutely.

As officials desperately seek temporary housing locations for New Orleans families whose homes were shattered months ago by Hurricane Katrina, the best site in the minds of many residents is clear: somewhere else. In one of the post-Katrina era's ironic role reversals, the same local officials and residents who once screamed at FEMA to get trailers to New Orleans quickly are now fending off the 17,777 trailers that FEMA has on hand in Louisiana and says it can deliver immediately. .....No one disputes that the city must repopulate to recover, and common sense dictates that flood-ruined homes can't house people. Consequently, the Federal Emergency Management Agency wants to install trailers at sites throughout New Orleans, an approach the agency has used in other areas after disasters and that has been embraced, in theory, by most city officials. But the bridge between theory and practice has been blown in some areas by opposition to the placement of trailers. Mayor Ray Nagin tried to sweep aside such opposition last week when he released his list of trailer sites. The move triggered howls of outrage from City Council members and some residents, and the administration quickly began backing off what seemed a bold proposal, a cause and effect that underscored the power of the "not in my back yard," or NIMBY, camps. Nagin's hasty backtracking last week seemed at odds with his rhetoric, with which he has repeatedly and forcefully attacked the NIMBY stance. At one of his town hall meetings, he went so far as to label the resistance "not very Christian," and to call the NIMBY mind-set deeply insulting to the far-flung evacuees who want to come home. "I talk with more and more people outside the city who are saying they want to come back and they are not pleased with the NIMBY talk," he said. "I'm seeing some of that 'not in my neighborhood' thinking. And I just want to plead with everyone. These are extraordinary circumstances. If there was ever a time for us to come together as neighbors, as friends, this is that time." Rhonda Browning agrees. Browning, who was left with only a few clothes and trinkets after Katrina annihilated her Chalmette home, lives in a trailer park in Vidalia after weeks at a Mississippi shelter. Laid off from her job in the Orleans Parish public school system, she is searching for a job and a home that can bring her back to the city. The only thing worse than the displacement and uncertainty, Browning said, is hearing that some people in the New Orleans area might not want her back, compounding an already aching sense of loss and abandonment. "It hurts," she said. "It really bothers me, because they're being selfish. The people who have more are looking down on those of us who don't have much. It makes me feel like a second-class citizen, like we're diseased or we're some kind of criminal because we don't have normal housing." .....New Orleans is by no means the only place prey to NIMBY squabbles. Voices have been raised against trailer parks throughout Louisiana. Of the state's 64 parishes, 32 have banned any new group trailer sites in the wake of the storm, while 24 have approved them with certain conditions or restrictions, according to FEMA. Only eight parishes have asked FEMA to bring in group parks with no conditions. .....Local foes of the trailers express concerns about crime, lower property values and the need for children to have recreational space. But the supercharged nature of the discussion hints at its unsavory, largely unacknowledged underpinnings: racial and class divisions. "You have to understand that resistance to these trailer parks looks like resistance to poor black people coming back to New Orleans," said Denise LeBoeuf, an attorney who specializes in death penalty cases and lives near Bayou St. John. A group of trailers has sprouted a few blocks from LeBoeuf's home, and she scoffed at the opposition to others in the city's parks. .....Vivianna Meskill cited a very different bottom-line consideration in explaining her opposition to a park approved for Loyola University staff in Kenner, where she lives. "Nobody can guarantee that the price of my property won't be affected," Meskill said. "Compassion is all right, but compassion can't be at the expense of my property." She also said she fears that parks will become long-term fixtures. FEMA officials say tenants have 18 months to find permanent housing, but that time can be extended on a "case-by-case basis" by FEMA workers who monitor residents' efforts. .....But time and again, the deepest anxieties animating the fight against trailer parks are attached to stereotypes about the people who most urgently need the temporary housing. A resident near the Marrero trailer park, who did not want to be named because of fear of retaliation, said of New Orleans: "You used to have murders on the news every night. Nobody would want to live next to that." At a contentious meeting about the site in November, one woman blurted from the audience, "How do we know these people are not from the projects of Orleans?" And several residents urged that trailer sites in Jefferson be used solely for Jefferson residents. Several residents said they are concerned that FEMA will not perform background checks on tenants before allowing them to live in a park. FEMA said it would be illegal for them to deny residents housing based on criminal history but that local officials can work with the agency to locate registered criminals such as sex offenders.
Lets stop with the compassion idealism and get to reality. The rest of Louisiana has made it clear they don't want anything to do with New Orleans as noted here , here and here. Houston wants more money to combat a surge in murders and crime with the influx of Katrina victims. New Orleans image and reputation is getting ahead of and cutting off getting help to people who need it. Unless they put together a plan to combat that and ease the worries of people, the trailer parks are not going up and pretty soon no one is going to care.

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