Just got word in my inbox a while ago that public housing residents and advocates took over the Housing Authority of New Orleans (HONA) earlier today, in response to the utter dereliction of duty that HONA has shown in restoring public housing in the city. From the press release about the action:
Across the country public housing authorities are selling off land, raising rents, firing workers, and leaving countless residents with no place to live. In New Orleans more than 300,000 residents, mostly poor and black, have been denied the right to return to their homes since Katrina hit two years ago.
The Housing Authority building has been locked down and is being surrounded by the National Guard, the New Orleans Police, and Swat. Residents are determined to save their homes and to show that public housing is still a valuable community asset.
The take over of the Housing Authority of New Orleans is a part of the International Tribunal and 2nd Survivor’s Assembly, which is being organized by Grassroots Global Justice (GGJ) and is being held to bring charges of racial discrimination and the denial of the right to return.
The city of New Orleans is in fact actively doing away with public housing:
New Orleans’ five public housing complexes were spared major flood damage, but the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Housing Authority of New Orleans intend to demolish four of them anyway, with plans for mixed-income housing that would leave less room for the poor. Before Katrina, more than 5,000 families lived in the city’s 5,100 public housing units. At present, only about 1,500 units are occupied.
Of course, this is only part of a greater, nationwide trend of neglect and reduction of public housing, further evidence of which I wrote about in July when NYC advocates demanded attention for the ailing public housing system in this city. But the specific situation in New Orleans puts the neglect and even direct targeting that low-income people and people of color have faced in New Orleans in these two years since Hurricane Katrina.
Yesterday’s episode of Democracy Now! focused on the situation in New Orleans on this second anniversary of the disaster, giving a far more incisive and honest take than most of the mainstream media’s coverage, as one might expect. Listen to the podcast or read the transcripts for a revealing and infuriating picture of what has and has not been done in the city. I haven’t gotten to listen to the last segment of the show yet, but it’s about what happened to the New Orleans public education system after the hurricane – did you know that 7,500 school employees – nearly all of the teachers in the city – were fired almost directly after the storm? I was shocked to hear that. Gotta listen to find out why that went down and what it meant.