Archive for the 'New Orleans' Category

New Orleans public housing residents and advocates take over the Housing Authority

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.

At least Trent Lott is a living, breathing bigot*

From yesterday’s headlines on Democracy Now!:

FEMA Gives $3 Million to Restore Jefferson Davis’ Home
The Federal Emergency Management Agency has agreed to pay about three million dollars to help repair the former home of Confederate president Jefferson Davis. Davis led the Confederacy in the South during the Civil War. Hurricane Katrina nearly destroyed the 150-year-old home in Biloxi Mississippi.

New Orleans Public Housing Residents Fight For Homes
In New Orleans, low-income residents are still fighting to prevent their homes from being demolished. On Saturday some residents of the Central City public housing complex defied government orders and moved back into their old apartments. The city is planning to demolish four large public housing developments even though tens of thousands of low-income New Orleans residents remain displaced.

So. While tens of thousands of low-income residents of New Orleans, most of whom are Black, remain homeless, and while the vast majority of New Orleans homeowners haven’t seen a dime of that vast amount of money supposedly dedicated to helping them rebuild, FEMA is setting aside a whole huge chunk of change to rebuild the house of the man who served as president of the Confederate States of America during the Civil War.

While structurally viable public housing is being demolished (to make way for what, and for whom, we must ask), and while the low-income Ninth Ward still looks much like it did directly after the storm (though I hear the tourist-friendly French Quarter is looking quite well these days), and while thousands upon thousands of people remain scattered and displaced, FEMA is making sure that a monument to man who was at the fore of one of the darkest times in american history is fully restored.

I’m willing to bet that the Jefferson Davis home will see their $3 million in rebuilding funds far before most of the residents of New Orleans see even a fraction of that in federal funds.

Shall we gather, then, that the former home of a long-dead white man who lead the Confederacy in fighting for the continued enslavement of Black people is perhaps more important to FEMA and the rest of this government than the current homes of thousands of the living descendants of those who he wished to keep enslaved?

* FYI: This post’s title is in reference to Bush’s heartwarming demonstration of concern for one of the few hurricane victims about whom he actually gave a damn – Senator Trent Lott: “Out of the rubbles of Trent Lott’s house — he’s lost his entire house — there’s going to be a fantastic house. And I’m looking forward to sitting on the porch.”