Race And Class In Katrina's Aftermath

"There are a lot of folks who are doing a lot of grass roots efforts to promote the interests of low and middle income people. The first people on the ground actually in New Orleans were a group called "A Common Ground Collective" who have basically been running medical clinics, gutting houses, assisting people to get back in public housing since really September, I mean even really right after the storm. And they have done a lot to highlight issues of race and class and also they have actually taken steps, they've taken action, they've helped occupy certain public housing places, they've broken into schools that were closed and gutted them and tried to get them ready for people to live in. They've gutted many, many poor people's homes, so they've done a lot. There are also a lot of public housing advocates who have come out. I mean one of the things that, most notable things that came out of Katrina was that almost all the public housing stock was closed even if it wasn't damaged in any way and there are a great many public housing residents who want to come back to town. And there are many, many advocates, Elizabeth Cook, is someone that I can think of in particular who worked really hard to try to get the federal government to allow people back into public housing which is really not happening right now."

I think that the race and class problems that we have here in New Orleans are really not necessarily unique to New Orleans it's just the fact that we had a storm blow through and highlighted it, brought it all out into the open in front of the cameras for everyone to see, but all this has been here and it is present in other cities. It's present in Washington, New York, Chicago, so I don't really think that in this situation the city of New Orleans, the state of Louisiana is in a great position to address poverty at all because there are so many other various problems that confront it. The question is who is supposed to address poverty on a nationwide scale and what have they done?

There's been very little effort to assist people to get back to New Orleans. Remember, most poor people were evacuated by gun point essentially, put in the nearest plane and dropped somewhere, it could be Salt Lake City, it could be Virginia, it could be Houston, and there's been very little effort made to try to get people back in town, and that's something the government could do more with at least in terms of providing people with advice. This "Road Home" program that we have which is supposed to help people rebuild their homes is not very well advertised in New Orleans itself and in other states where evacuees can be found. So a lot more could be done in getting the word out that there is a possibility to return, but I don't think it's encouraged really at this point.

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