Katrina survivors won’t be evicted
Published Jun 29, 2009 7:10 AM
The nightmare that has haunted thousands of Katrina survivors since storms and
decrepit levees destroyed a significant portion of the Gulf Coast during the
late summer of 2005 continues in large part today. Since hurricanes Katrina and
Rita took place, hundreds of thousands of people, mainly Black and poor, have
been forced to relocate to other cities due to the racist negligence of the
This past April and May, many survivors in parts of Mississippi and Louisiana,
especially New Orleans, had been threatened with mass evictions from trailers
provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. FEMA told families that
they would have to vacate within 30 days.
In Mississippi alone, nearly 40,000 families live in either trailers or mobile
These inadequate trailers have become long-term housing out of necessity for
those who have been either permanently displaced or are waiting for their homes
to be rebuilt. Many of these trailers, condemned as death traps, were
discovered to have toxic levels of formaldehyde, causing high incidences of
asthma, emphysema and other respiratory ailments.
Right before the June 1 deadline, FEMA reversed its decision on the trailer
evictions, thanks to a national campaign of angry protest against this inhumane
policy. FEMA then announced that the government would sell trailers for $5 or
The Department of Housing and Urban Development has promised $50 million worth
of permanent housing vouchers for about 7,000 families, mainly indigent,
disabled and elderly. However, some are doubtful that the government will carry
through with this commitment.
Martha Kegel, director of Unity of Greater New Orleans, a homeless service
agency, told the June 3 New York Times, “It’s been such a long
history of FEMA making announcements in the media and nothing much in the way
of assistance has ever trickled down to the elderly and disabled people trying
to repair their homes.”
Katrina survivors may have won a temporary reprieve on the issue of the
trailers, but the fight for justice is far from over. The larger struggle
involves the complete right to return, which means the right to housing,
education, health care, jobs and other forms of overdue reparations.
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