The Not Wanted Signs
By BOB HERBERT
Published: January 1, 2007
I’ve heard the concern expressed dozens of times by New Orleans residents who are poor and black and still living in enforced exile from their wounded city: Maybe they don’t want us back.
You hear it again and again and again, the tone of voice varying from sadness to anger to resignation, but always laced with the unmistakable pain of feeling unwelcome in one’s own home. I’ve come to think of it as the New Orleans lament.
“They are not trying to bring us home,” said Geraldine Craig, who is living in a federally sponsored trailer encampment in Baton Rouge. “Just the opposite. They’re telling us to find housing here.”
“It hurts,” said Mimi Adams, a woman who wore out her welcome with relatives in Houston and Atlanta but has no idea when she might return to New Orleans. “Even if I could find a place, the rents are too high,” she said. “They’ve gone up a lot. I’m told they don’t want us poor folks back, that they’re making it a city for the well-to-do. That’s what I’m hearing.”
Sixteen months have passed since the apocalyptic flood that followed Hurricane Katrina. More than 13,000 residents who were displaced by the storm are still living in trailers provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Another 100,000 to 200,000 evacuees — most of whom want to return home — are scattered throughout the United States.
The undeniable neglect of this population fuels the suspicion among the poor and the black, who constitute a majority of the evacuees, that the city is being handed over to the well-to-do and the white.
If you talk to public officials, you will hear about billions of dollars in aid being funneled through this program or that. The maze of bureaucratic initiatives is dizzying. But when you talk to the people most in need of help — the poor, the elderly, the disabled, the children — you will find in most cases that the help is not reaching them. There is no massive effort, no master plan, to bring back the people who were driven from the city and left destitute by Katrina.
posted by Steve @ 7:52:00 AM