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Don't Forget The Katrina Victims!

The Department of Homeland Security and FEMA have failed and we must act.

by Brooks Gardner
April 25, 2006

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Don't Forget The Katrina Victims!

As the waste of resources are reported, we often wonder when will it ever stop. There seem to be an endless reports of waste in the the recovery following Hurricane Katrina. Spencer Hsu reported on April 14, 2006 a litany of cited reports of waste that would make the average American sick to his stomach.

FEMA's wrap up of the first phase of the temporary housing program. Opportunities for temporary housing will probably top $1 billion. These facts are stated in studies of the Department of Homeland Security.

As the Federal Emergency Management Agency wraps up the initial phase of its temporary housing program -- ending reliance on cruise ships and hotels for people sent fleeing by the Aug. 29 storm - the toll of false starts and missed opportunities appears likely to top $1 billion and perhaps much more, according to a series of after-action studies and Department of Homeland Security reports.

Six point four billion dollars allocated to place storm survivors in temporary trailers and mobile homes has practically at a standstill due to racial tension in the area. Less than three quarters of the trailers that FEMA estimates are need are being uses. Sixty percent of FEMA's spending is directed to housing assistance. Actually 10 percent of the estimated household are getting help. Federal agencies are still at each others' throats.1

My trip to the Gulf Coast at the end of January, 2006 gave me insight to FEMA's efforts in Pearlington, MS. The trailers are totally inadequate. One retired river barge captain told me that his time in the trailer was almost more than he could take. His brick home sat next door and is not salvageable. He was in the process of adding a portable room to the trailer. As we installed sheet rock, we were told that this was going to be the living room of his home. The trailer had proven to be claustrophobic. In this room he and his wife and visitors could enjoy their television, their meals, and the feeling of openness. At the end of January families had the trailers and additional outdoor space. Most of their homes were still sitting off the foundations and declared uninhabitable.

To help solve similar problems, architect Marianne Cousato and other architects had designed cottages that will compete favorably in cost with the travel trailers. Typically, the Katrina Cottage is a house of approximately 300 square feet designed for displaced residents and emergency workers. The Katrina cottage after awhile can become the first part of a larger home. The cottage can also be used as a guesthouse after a new house is built. Cottages can be moved to new sites or converted to rental property. See Cusato Cottages

We get back to that question about what we are going to do about Katrina recovery. Eight months into recovery we are still seeing the ravages of Katrina. We still see that people need help. A local Presbyterian Church has taken three work teams to the Gulf Coast to help out the Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA). PDA is like most any other church's assistance programs. I would challenge you to join a team from your church, club or community; offer assistance to the Red Cross; send donations of money to such organizations; or help to sponsor workers going to the Gulf Coast to help.

With gasoline prices soaring, it ain't cheap labor. Most work camps charge nominal fees for housing and materials. What ever you do, do it now and do it often. There will be great need in there for months and years to come.

I plan to go again, I hope that you will consider going with me. I am sure it will be okay to be a Presbyterian for a few days. My email address is noted below. Use it to volunteer or to let me know what you plan. 

1 Hsu, Spencer S. "Waste in Katrina Response Is Cited", Washington Post, April 04, 2006 © 2006 The Washington Post Company
Washington Post Blog

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wanda & terrence hines from gulfport,ms writes:
May 18, 2006
first off i want to say thank you for post .it is very much needed here on the coast .my family lost everything except the faith we have and each other .i was wondering if you know anyone who can help us get some wall insulation for out last room as we got 4 thousand dollers from fema for our damages and we lost everything.or even if you can point me into the right dirrection that will be great it is now hurricane season again and my husband & myself and my 80 year old father-in-law who just passed in march have rebuilt our home .please any information will be greatful and many blessing to you wanda

Brooks Gardner from Mebane, NC writes:
May 19, 2006
Wanda and Terrence, There is a presence of the Presbyterian Disaster Assistance in the Gulfport area. One such village is at Orange Grove Presbyterian Church, Gulfport, Mississippi. You might check there, if they don't have the resources, I am sure that you can be directed in the right direction. There are other opportunities that my be reached through the Presbytery of Mississippi. You may also want to look at http://www.pcusa.org/pda. This will put you on the Presbyterian Disaster Assistance web page. The only qualification is the need for help. Once you have contacted PDA, your situation will be evaluated and a team will probably be dispatched as soon as possible. I have given you all of the information that I have available to me as this time. Please let us know at The Partial Observer of your progress. May God's love walk with you!

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