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Comments by YACCS
Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Those lights are out on purpose

Ozier Muhammad/The New York Times
Contresse Wilson, left, Terry Pierre and Pamela Mahogany,
storm evacuees who went to Houston and Baton Rouge, La.
, at tents set up outside St. Bernard, the largest project in New Orleans.

Clamoring to Come Home to New Orleans Projects

Published: June 6, 2006

NEW ORLEANS, June 5 — Hundreds of displaced residents of public housing have for several days been returning here for the first time since Hurricane Katrina.

Displaced residents in the tents are trying to force the city to reopen their storm-damaged apartments.

They are armed with little more than cleaning supplies and frustration, in an effort to force the city to reopen their storm-damaged apartments.

The city, saying the projects are not ready, has refused.

Outside the largest complex, the St. Bernard Housing Development in the Seventh Ward, tenant groups have organized evacuees into a tent city called Survivors Village. At the C. J. Peete Development in Central City, older residents, mostly women, broke into their old apartments and carted away plastic bags of refuse and ruined furniture.

At the Florida housing complex in the Ninth Ward, residents slipped through fences topped with razor wire to reach their old units. They piled up heaps of debris that lined Bartholomew Street in the shadow of Interstate 10.

In bone-baking heat under a cloudless sky, evacuees traveling from Atlanta, Baton Rouge, Houston and elsewhere fumed at the city and federal housing officials who have opened fewer than 1,000 of more than 8,000 public housing units in a city suffering from a housing crisis and a shortage of workers.

The residents promised on Sunday to gut and rebuild their own units, and they said they planned to be back permanently — with or without the city's permission — as soon as their work was done.

"They're not giving us any help, and we're tired of waiting," a resident, Nickole Banks, said of the Housing Authority. "People want to come home."

Damage to the projects ranged from very little to severe. The Housing Authority says that as many as 90 percent of the apartments are unsafe and uninhabitable and that time-consuming environmental evaluations remain unfinished. To the residents, these are excuses. They fear that city officials are really trying to redevelop the projects to bring in other residents with more money.

That is a move that some city and federal officials say would be desirable. Private developers have openly discussed the possibility of rebuilding some projects to house a much wider range of tenants.

Because private homeowners are being encouraged to return to the same areas, the public housing question has become part of a larger debate about the future of the city's poor population. Does New Orleans intend to make itself a home for them again?

After the storm, many of the most important institutions and services for the poor broke down and were never repaired. Charity Hospital, a historic institution for the poor, remains closed.

The public defender system has been unable to provide lawyers to poor defendants, and public transportation is essentially broke and is providing far fewer rides.

"They're trying to steal New Orleans from us," Phyllis Jenkins, who has been living in Fort Worth, said Sunday outside what used to be her home in the sprawling St. Bernard development. "Well, I will not be displaced anymore. I'll take my home any way they give it to me. It's been 10 months. They've got to know we're serious. We're going to stand here until they let us in our homes."

A lot of people fear that displacing the poor is part of the agenda here and they don't like it. It's a source of massive tension between city residents and the local government. They city will have to find a way for these people to return home

posted by Steve @ 9:51:00 AM

9:51:00 AM

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