Monday, January 02, 2006

Fraud of Rebuilding and Recovery: Hurricane Katrina

It's well known that tens of thousands of victim/survivors roam the northeastern area above New Orleans and southeastern region of Mississippi without housing since the disaster struck. Thousands of citizens live out of their cars or cram into other's homes. Half of New Orleans has no electricity or water. Tens of thousands of homes are obliterated. Not just houses, but everything in them. Photos, letters, TVs, toys, clothes, records, everything. 150,000 people are staying in hotel rooms. The rooms are being paid for by FEMA, because it's court ordered and there's a class-action law suit keeping FEMA from shutting it down. FEMA planned to put these folks out on the street in December.

It may be hard to understand, but nothing has changed for these people. Their homes have been annihilated and their ability to "find new careers" without resumes, identification, etc, impaired. They have no records, tax documents, bank statements, clothes, pictures, appliances, tools, etc. Realistically, what are they supposed to do? Fix it? Hundreds of children have yet to be reunited with their families. Nearly 200,000 people need living quarters and real help to get re-oriented, repossess records, connnect to jobs somewhere, and get back on their feet.

It will cost money and requires decisive action. However, FEMA's witholding the bulk of available funds, nearly 70-billion dollars. 80,000 mobile homes have not been moved into the region for basic housing. Of late, excuses spill onto the local government. Apparently, other folks in the region don't want "evacuees" (a word that means men, women, and children) living next to them; the officials haven't worked it out yet.

Katrina hit on August 29th, over four months ago. Fannie Mae offered 1,800 homes rent-free for 18-months, but FEMA wouldn't act. Under intense pressure, FEMA finally agreed to use the homes Fannie Mae offered. The trailers sit. Other options haven't been engaged, because of "negotiation challenges." 200,000 people are awaiting eviction or roaming the countryside. What could possibly be the "negotiation challenge" priority that overrides theirs?

Politicians talk about the cost of recovery and rebuilding, like it's a barrier. However, the President approved and Congress managed to pass a $453 billion dollar defense spending bill. You know, to liberate the citizens of Iraq by developing a democracy. Meanwhile, American citizens on our own soil are in desperate need: Where's our American liberation?

How would I know what's going on in the disaster region? Well, I was there, volunteered, disaster relief, keep in touch with dozens of other volunteers across the country, and will be heading back in the next few weeks.