Monday, December 10, 2007


December 11 Public Meeting to Detail "Renaissance Village Housing Transition Plan"to Avert Homelessness as FEMA "Move Out" Deadline Nears;Federal Agency Representatives to Attend and Respond

Faced with the threat of losing their homes, displaced New Orleans residents in the Baker area have joined with community leaders and representatives from federal agencies to produce an action plan to relocate to permanent housing.

The Renaissance Village Housing Transition Plan will be released at a public meeting on December 11 at the Baker BREC Center on 1420 Alabama Street.

Residents of the Renaissance Village FEMA trailer park are working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, other state and federal agencies, elected officials, American Red Cross and other social service agencies to create and implement a process to more effectively transition more than 450 families living in the trailer park to safe, affordable and permanent housing.

"We feel that this is not a New Orleans thing or a Baton Rouge or Baker thing. This is a people thing," Rev. John L. Thomas, pastor of the Christ Fellowship Church of Leland, said at a recent press conference announcing the new plan. "Our elected officials at all levels need to understand this and commit to helping these people."

The Renaissance Village Housing Transition Plan consists of a series of strategies for securing affordable, permanent housing that includes increasing case management capacity, developing landlord agreements in the region, and instituting job training and streamlined housing placement services. Residents and community leaders are working to obtain commitments from partners to support implementation.

Approximately 460 families currently live in the Renaissance Village trailer park. Almost 3,000 families across Louisiana will have to leave their government-supplied trailers over the next few months under a new schedule by FEMA to close all trailer parks by June 1, 2008. Renaissance Village is the largest of the approximately 70 trailer parks that still house displaced New Orleans residents across Louisiana.

Presentations at the December 11 public meeting will include residents of Renaissance Village, Baker Mayor Harold Rideau and area clergy including Louisiana Episcopal Bishop, Right Reverend Charles Jenkins. Respondents to the plan will include service partners such as the Senior Advisor for Disaster Operations for HUD, Carl Jurison, and representatives from FEMA, American Red Cross and other government agencies.

The Renaissance Village Housing Transition Plan, if implemented, could be replicated for transitioning the residents of remaining FEMA trailer parks in the region who face similar living conditions and risk of homelessness after their temporary housing locations close, according to Linda Jeffers, Louisiana Coordinator for American Speaks.

A free public dinner will be served at 5:30 p.m., followed by the public meeting from 7-9 p.m.


FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONSRENAISSANCE VILLAGE FEMA PARK CAMPAIGN TO MOVE TO PERMANENT AFFORDABLE HOUSINGWhat is Renaissance Village and who lives there?Renaissance Village is the largest of the more than 60 remaining trailer parks in Louisiana created by the Federal Emergency to house displaced residents from Hurricane Katrina. Presently, over 450 families live in Renaissance Village, many of whom have lived there for the past two years. Other Renaissance Village residents were transferred from other trailer parks that have been closed by FEMA. The Renaissance Village trailer park is located in Baker, LA, outside of Baton Rouge. What is the Campaign to Move to Permanent Affordable Housing? Almost 3,000 families across Louisiana will have to leave their government-supplied trailers over the next few months under a new schedule to close all trailer parks by June 1, 2008 prepared by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Unless action is taken, the residents of Renaissance Village will face the threat of homelessness.

The residents of Renaissance Village are joining together with local leaders to assert the right of the residents of Renaissance Village to have access to permanent affordable housing. The coalition will work with local, state and federal agencies to produce a concrete plan of action. What are the challenges facing the residents of Renaissance Village?Those citizens who continue to live in FEMA trailer parks across the state of Louisiana and Mississippi are in a uniquely challenging situation. For over two years, they have been unable to re-establish their lives as they live in spaces too small to accumulate household items, often isolated from jobs and public transportation. They have not yet re-established credit with utility companies. They are not eligible for certain resources because they are living on government property meant to be temporary emergency housing.Who is involved with the Campaign to Move to Permanent Affordable Housing?The campaign is being led by the residents of Renaissance Village in partnership with local community leaders, including the Mayor and City Council of Baker, LA, and local clergy from across the greater Baton Rouge area. The coalition has been facilitated by the non-profit organization, AmericaSpeaks. Who is AmericaSpeaks and why is the organization involved? AmericaSpeaks, a non-profit organization based in Washington DC, engages citizens in the public decisions that impact their lives.

Last year, AmericaSpeaks worked closely with the Unified New Orleans Plan (UNOP) to coordinate Community Congress II and III which engaged thousands of displaced New Orleans citizens along with their neighbors who have returned to the city in setting priorities for the city's recovery plan to rebuild New Orleans. Following the UNOP process, AmericaSpeaks has continued to support the efforts of displaced citizens to address the priorities they have identified. In particular, diaspora leaders from Houston and Baker/Baton Rouge are collaborating to secure dignified permanent affordable housing for those still living in Renaissance Village.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

FEMA's Toxic Waste

FEMA the New 4-letter F word

When all is said and done FEMA’s actions speak louder then their fraudulent press releases, lies and empty promises to us. All to many of us have followed FEMA’s road to recovery only to eventually find the ROAD CLOSED!

FEMA's Good at Wasting Money

FEMA is good at wasting money. With the cost of the travel trailer which includes the purchase, transportation, installation, maintenance, cleaning and disposal of the trailers, but doesn’t include the cost of the rental cost of the location where the trailer is setup at, somewhere in the range of $60,000.00 to 75,000.00 or more. This is the cost for a 18-month "life cycle," if the time in the trailer is longer the cost would be a lot higher. If FEMA were to offer the cash instead of a temporary housing to hurricane victims, they would be able to spend it in a way that would give them a better road to recovery then FEMA is able to do. Some would say if you gave some people the money they would use it improperly. That is a possibility, but you can not take way a responsible persons road to recovery just because someone else might not use it incorrectly. That would be injustice to the responsible person, to be denied a chance because of someone else’s bad choices. If FEMA were to take that path they would not still be trying to deal with the people in the temporary housing, and from the treatment that we are getting from FEMA that is their only goal, it is to just get rid of us. Their goal is not to help us on the road to recovery. There is a good story about this in The Times-Picayune, Saturday, January 21, 2006, James Varney, he can be reached or (504) 826-3386.

Racial Disparity in Recovery Funding!

White verses Black has no place in disaster and recovery funding. We demand FEMA explain what they based their funding decision on. Louisiana had nearly 80% of the storm damage from two hurricanes and received only 55% of federal relief funds. Mississippi, with 23% of the damage, received 45%of the relief funds. Of the 70% of homes that were destroyed or severely damaged in New Orleans they were owned or rented by low-income people and families that was comprised of vulnerable populations, predominantly minority, immigrants, elderly, disabled and 68% of that were black, and of that number 57% of pre-Katrina residents were renters in New Orleans. Why did Mississippi get a larger percentage of the money based on the percentage of damage. Is it partisan politics or White verses Black, Biloxi, Mississippi, is 71% white, with a mayor, governor, and two senators who are all Republicans. New Orleans. Louisiana, was 68% black pre- Katrina, with a mayor, governor, and one senator who are Democrats and one Republican senator. Which ever it is, it has no place in a declared disaster and recovery program. This is an American outrage that demonstrates that there is continuing shame of racial division in our country. It is unacceptable to selectively grant funds based on race or politics. FEMA’s discretion should be used in a fair and equitable manner. We urge all concerned citizens take a stand. We call on Louisiana Governor Kathleen B. Blanco, Governor-Elect Bobby Jindal and Louisiana Attorney General Charles C. Foti to thoroughly investigate FEMA’s award of funds to Mississippi and Louisiana.
The Governor and State Attorney General should do everything in their power to ensure that the people of Louisiana’s constitutional rights are protected.
We also call on NAACP, Revs. Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton to take up the fight to insure the rights of the people of Louisiana are protected and unequal treatment by FEMA is put to an end. It is time for us to express our outrage at such a blatant injustice, and it should not be aloud to continue.

The Katrina Cottage Mystery

The Katrina Cottage mystery. When FEMA made the announcement about the Katrina Cottage housing program it was very clear that there was partisan politics or White verses Black involved, and it has no place in a declared disaster and recovery program. It is also against The United States Constitution and the Declaration of Independence which is the basics of our government. Louisiana had 64,000 families living in travel trailers and FEMA only gave Louisiana $74 million. Yet Mississippi had 31,000 families living in travel trailers, and Mississippi received $280 million in funding for the Katrina Cottages.
We demand FEMA explain what they based their funding decision on. Of the Katrina Cottages that will be built within Louisiana with that money 75 cottages will be reserved for civilian and uniformed employees of the state military department.
We ask you how is that right? If the government wants to build them for civilian and uniformed employees they should not use the money that was ear marked for the State of Louisiana they should use money from the military department. This is also not allowed under the Staford Act which governs FEMA's actions.

NO "Road Home " Help for renters!

There’s no Road Home for Renters.
The struggles of renters are going largely unnoticed in the mainstream press. Access to housing is a basic human right. It is not acceptable that the most vulnerable populations, the lowest-income, predominantly minority, immigrants, elderly, disabled, and homeless are disproportionately excluded from assistance and have the fewest resources to fall back on are the households that were most affected by the hurricane.
New Orleans was 68% black pre- Katrina and 57 percent of pre-Katrina residents were renters. It is a fact that 45.7% housing units that were destroyed by the 2005 levee breaks and hurricanes were rental units, this is80% of the rental units that were available before the storm, yet 80% of the Road Home money is allocated for homeowners. The rental programs funded through the Road Home will eventually rebuild just about half of the destroyed rental housing.The lack of Affordable Rental Units Of the 35,000 new or restored rental units, only 6,000 would be affordable to households with incomes at or below 40% of the local median income. The vast majority of uninhabitable rental units were previously occupied by low-income households, what are they to do if they want to go home. Because of the severe reduction in the number of units available, rents have risen dramatically. The rental prices are over 75% higher and in some case over 200% higher than pre-Katrina rental prices. A good indication of the rental prices is HUD. HUD has raised the Fair Market Rents in New Orleans for a two bedroom apartment from $676.00 to$978.00, this is a 45% increase. This is a big increase but it is not even close to the increase in the actual rental prices. All other living expenses have gone up yet a person living on Social Security or SSI or other retirement program have not seen any increase that would allow them to be able to afford the increased living expenses. Not only are minimum-wage earners currently unable to afford rents in New Orleans, but so are other key members of the community and economy. Homelessness has doubled since pre-Katrina. People are living in units that have not been fixed because there is nowhere else for them to go. Salaried workers such as hotel clerks, clergy members, rookie cops, building inspectors, home health aides, and elementary school teachers are among those that don't earn enough for a two-bedroom apartment. Providing payments to homeowners to rebuild is essential for the recovery, but we can't forget about the renters, who are essential and who still can’t come home. LRA promise to give some displaced Louisiana renters the opportunity to become homeowners. However, this promise rings hollow when you consider the fact that LRA only provides $50 million or 0.4% of the $10.4 billion to establish a first-time home owners program for displaced people. Although $50 million seems like a lot of money, it can only help approximately 245 displaced families or individuals, this is a outrageously small fraction of displaced residents getting help to purchase a home. What this all means is that, all of the Disaster Survivors haven't received, nor will they receive the housing assistance they so desperately need. Louisiana had nearly 80% of the storm damage from two hurricanes received only 55% of federal relief funds. Mississippi, with 23% of the damage, received 45% of the relief funds. This is far more money proportionately, and they received it a full six months ahead of Lousisan. Our Road Home progress was delayed six months due to this disparity.