Wednesday, February 15, 2006

FEMA, Wasted

[Image: That Trailer Park, Arkansas Times Daily Blog, 2006]

It' crazy to hear about the more than 20, 000 or so empty 80-foot trailers that are camped out in fields and parking lots through out the gulf region, or the 11, 000 alone sitting vacant on that airstrip in Hope, Arkansas, where FEMA is paying $25,000 a month storage fee. Apparently, FEMA claims the trailers are restricted from flood plains, because the only way to park them there is to raise them off the ground and anchor them. But, that would then technically make them "permanent housing", and, (as FEMA has been more than quick to point out), Louisiana officials have made this type of housing against the law. So, they'd rather thousands of people go on living in tents there instead.
Talk about absurdity. Talk about playing bureaucratic hot potato, juggling people's lives in certain limbo. It's ike MoJo points out, that may just be all a part of the plan. Starving victims into further migration.

[Image: Storm Victims Face Big Delay to Get Trailers, New York Times, 2006]

So, instead of doing anything with all of these unused trailers, FEMA has decided to eat the costs until they figure out another plan for them. This brilliant decision has been perfectly timed with the announcements that 12, 000 people have just recently hit the streets again after being evicted from government sponsored hotels.
And, the newest audits show FEMA has squandered away millions of aid dollars in over-charges, poor accounting, and all sort of abuses.
Meanwhile, on the flip side, residents who have since moved out of their need for the trailers can't seem to get FEMA to come pick them up. So, that they may, presumably, (and you'll have to forgive me here) be used for other victims who still need them.

Let's get this straight one more time. FEMA is the real disaster here. And their response couldn't be more disgraceful watching millions of Pakistani earthquake victims freezing to death under cardboard shelters on snowy mountain tops. Or, rotting away in post-tsunami emergency camps. De-housed in the West Bank. It doesn't get much more telling than that: here is the epitome of the wasteful American landscape, thousands of homeless people suffering right next to massive stock piles of locked up disposable emergency shelters. So disposable, in fact, that they don't even ever actually get used.


Blogger rn said...

Great post. There should be more outrage about this.

In the Wall Street Journal today (Feb. 16): "Nearly 20,000 New Orleans residents have requested temporary trailers from FEMA, but so far the agency has delivered fewer than 4,000."

The problem is in part that Mayor Ray Nagin and the city council are fighting over where to put them. In the meantime, rents in the city have soared by as much as 60 percent.

Also: the public utility hasn't restored electric service, except to the wealthy areas. And I'm told phone service is not available in wide swathes of the city. FEMA and local officials have to take charge of this. If we can bounce robot rovers onto Mars we can wire New Orleans or at least install emergency cell towers.

The city simply doesn't have an empowered constituency right now. The population's down to 157,000 residents, from 485,000 pre-Katrina.

So, people need to move back to New Orleans, trailers or no trailers. Stay in tents. Stay in scrap-heap hovels. Claim the land.

I know all the objections. The soil is poisonous. People's houses have been destroyed. There aren't jobs.

All of those things may be true, and there's no doubt that life there will be amazingly difficult. But if people truly want to reclaim New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, they'd better head back before the developers eat it all up.

4:36 PM  
Blogger Bryan Finoki said...


man, i couldnt agree with that more. the writing is on the wall. it's like a waiting game, stretching it out as long as possible to see who sticks around, and who gets fed up and decides to bail the Lousiana ship.

it's really gross. to see, the post-disaster disaster just building on itself more and more.

it's a people drain. like they're drying it out of poor people entirely, so there will be no fuss about the rampant private development that is frothy mouthed and ready to swoop in.

yeah, squatter activism. people need to get down there and dig in. sounds crazy, but i think you are right. they are counting on those people thinning out, abandoning the place, the only checks and balances left will be actual bodies down there that fight for affordable housing, and sensible planning.

what about land truts? i would almost like to see policy mandate that a certain portion of reconstruction fall under the protection of commuity land trusts? permanently affordable land secured for the future. it's an opportunity to do something truly just in our rebuilding efforts. to redevise the inequalities of our socio-economic structure. i dont know. people need to fight the power! that's for sure.

thanks for your great comment.

2:32 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Land trusts could gain some traction, but I can't help thinking that it would require continued high volume attention on the situation from the mainstream news media.

Not that you could call it unexpected, but with news coverage skewing toward curios of the hurricane and its aftermath, events with the texture of urban legend are obscuring any continued analysis of the ongoing calamity there.

I keep being made aware that, more than at any time in history, we can see the outlines of this time's historical forces taking shape in something like real time. Any reference to seeing the broad outline of a force working toward an insidious result, however incidental, almost necessarily suggests paranoia. But then you watch the population of a city drop by more than 60% with, at a minimum, hundreds of millions of dollars riding on the capitulation of a suddenly floating population.

1:11 PM  

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