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Comments by YACCS
Monday, December 18, 2006

Compare and contrast

Out of Sight

Published: December 18, 2006

Baker, La.
There are hundreds of children in the trailer camp that is run by FEMA and known as Renaissance Village, but they won’t be having much of a Christmas. They’re trapped here in a demoralizing, overcrowded environment with adults who are mostly broke, jobless and at the end of their emotional tethers. Many of the kids aren’t even going to school.

“This is a terrible environment for children,” said Anita Gentris, who lost everything in the flood that followed Hurricane Katrina and is living in one of the 200-square-foot travel trailers with her 10-year-old daughter and 5-year-old son. “My daughter is having bad dreams. And my son, he’s a very angry child right now. He cries. He throws things.

“I’m desperately trying to find permanent housing.”

The television cameras are mostly gone now, and the many thousands of people from the Gulf Coast whose lives were wrecked by Katrina in the summer of 2005 have slipped from the national consciousness. But like the city of New Orleans itself, most of them have yet to recover.


Not in my backyard, either

After the poor kids next door took advantage of me, I felt sympathy for the people of Houston, who've suffered crime and violence because of struggling Katrina exiles.

By Debra J. Dickerson

Neighborhood gossip, to which I was necessarily not privy until it was too late, was that the "Smiths" were living in the house via Catholic Charities. Maybe it was Catholic Charities, maybe it was Section 8 -- who knows and what's the difference? In any event, and given the blur of any move, it took me a few days to notice that black people lived next door (we were the only two black families) and that a never-ending stream of children ebbed and flowed from their house at all hours of the day and night. After two weeks or so, I calculated that there were seven kids (plus one mom and four surnames) next door. Their house, like mine, has three bedrooms, one bath. It was, of course, the male teenagers that most caught my eye.

As a single mom of two tots, the young men worried me, mostly because they were so idle, sauntering aimlessly down the center of our busy street, lolling on their tiny porch, riding seatless bicycles in languorous, unpredictable, traffic-snarling circles. They were going nowhere very slowly. The yard overgrown, untended and strewn with litter in a neighborhood where the men often came home for lunch to tend already manicured lawns and plant new shrubbery. Why no team uniforms on these kids, no backpacks, no school projects carted home in cardboard boxes?

Unsmiling, they watched me, never crossing the driveway to help with my packages like the other families did, hip me to the garbage schedule, introduce themselves. Growing up, I learned the primary lesson of inner-city survival: Never show fear. Grown, I also knew that ghetto toughness is a necessary mask its purveyors are all too ready to shed; I made eye contact and was proactively nice from Day One. If I didn't give them the benefit of the doubt, who would?

I learned all their names and gave each a friendly smile -- Mom, too, when she took her rare TV breaks for air. Surprised and grateful, whenever they saw my soccer mom minivan pull up (carless, they were ferried about by a succession of white ladies with the lanyards of various social service agencies dangling round their necks), whoever was lolling about greeted me warmly. I thought we were off to a good start when they called me "Miss Debra" unprompted. Ah, I thought. Poor, but with home training, just as I had been. I can work with this. And the youngest two became instant playmates with my own. Alas, I relaxed too soon.

Note: read the letters on the Dickerson piece

posted by Steve @ 7:55:00 AM

7:55:00 AM

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