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.

Misled, Abandoned and Neglected By FEMA

There is one program that FEMA has mastered better then anything else they do, FEMA officials say they don't want people at Renaissance Village to get too comfortable. As a reward for the great job that they did in accomplishing that goal they should be required to live here for 2 ½ years. They should have to live in a place that is not a community. A place that once they had moved in, residents isolated themselves. The shades are drawn in every trailer, people don't know their neighbors. Unlike in the communities that they left behind, there is no sense of community here. FEMA counters that there is no point in developing a community setting, because nobody is supposed to live in the park long enough to make it a real community. This is a place where the people suffer from nose bleeds, watery eyes,respiratory problems, and flu-like symptoms, scratchy throats,head aches, breathing difficulties, and the worries about getting cancer, all caused by formaldehyde. The dismal nature of this place and the stress imposed upon our lives with the specter of an uncertain future. Where there should be hope, we find instead, disenchantment and uncertainty that looms over many residents in the trailer park, where there exists a constant uncertainty between the federal government and what the residents see as no future for them.
The sick and the elderly see a place where they are alone. A future where, when or if they die in their trailer no one will know or care. This is a place where residents have expired and it was not discovered until a few days after the fact. A place with so many people and yet you are still alone. The ones who are most affected by this place and least likely to fight are the elderly, sick, handicapped, single mothers, and the children. Most of the people here who would normally have the wherewithal are suffering from depression, anxiety and post t0raumatic stress disorders. These situations have kept hundreds of fellow US citizens in inhuman living conditions for over two years. The name of this place, Renaissance Village should make you think of a new beginning. But what this place is best known for is what we are known as, “FEMA's Dirty Little Secret”. The Survivors have been misled, abandoned and neglected by FEMA for to long. That apparent heartless attitude speaks volumes about the FEMA’s true intentions of not helping those that need the help. It's trying to run a makeshift town that it wants to shutdown after 18 months, and it's lack of providing services to people who it hopes will move away even sooner by not making them feel comfortable or most of all welcome.

Trailers for Sale?

The Stafford Act authorizes FEMA to dispose of temporary housing units through sales to occupants when theapplicant lacks permanent housing. This initiative will allowthose residents who have been unable to move on to purchase their own units, thus facilitating their return to self-sufficiency.When FEMA announces travel trailer sales program to occupantsin Louisiana on May 15, 2007, a lot of people wanted to takeadvantage of the opportunity to buy their trailer or mobile home.This was evidenced by the fact that FEMA sent out 49,977letters to people telling them about the program to sell the travel trailer or mobile home, and of the 21,601 responses sent back toFEMA 19,724 wanted to buy their unit. This would have giventhem at least some sort of permanent housing, so they wouldknow they will have a roof over their head, a place to live, andnot end up on the street. Then on August 24, 2007 FEMA endedthe program for the sale of the travel trailers. Most of the people never got a response back from FEMA about their interest inbuying their trailer before FEMA ended the program. This wasevidenced by the fact that FEMA only sold 4 mobile homes and3 travel trailers.

FEMA Lies, Survivors Lives

FEMA has truly learned the lessons of Katrina. Theyhave perfected the telling of lies. Even its handling of the media has improved dramatically. FEMA uses the news media to get their lies out to the public. Then shortly after the news is out they do what they want and no one is there to report on the truth ofwhat they are really doing. In August of 2007 it was being reported on the television news and in the news paper thatFEMA has a program that they are doing that will pay the moving expenses anywhere in the continental United States, and FEMA will pay for a apartment. By October 2nd 2007 FEMA was only doing the move or the apartment not both, and a FEMA news release dated October 15th stated that said FEMA is now doing both.
In August 2007 FEMA reports to the news mediathat the residents of Renaissance Village will have to start paying for living in their trailers. They say that starting March 1st 2008 the residents will paying $50.00 per month, and that it will go up$50.00 per month. That means that on April 1st 2008 they willpay $100.00, and on May 1st they pay $150.00, and so on, and byFebruary 1st 2009 and the end of Renaissance Village they willpay $600.00. At that same time in August 2007 FEMA reportedthat HUD would be taking over managing the apartment rental payments that FEMA has been paying and HUD would bemanaging Renaissance Village by November 2007. It has nowNovember 2007 and it has been discovered that FEMA’s 18month program to pay the rent for people so they can get out ofthe trailers will have to start paying part of the rent on March 1st2008 just like the people in the trailers, $50.00 per month and itwill go up $50.00 per month also. It really is not a program for18 months of rental assistance because it started in September2007 even if you were not in an apartment. FEMA has workedwith HUD before in programs that did not include the peoplewho were in the trailers or did not include them at the start of theprograms stated in this news release by fema dated September24, 2005 “HUD Is Providing Specialized Housing Assistance ToEvacuees.
While the majority of evacuees will receive assistancethrough FEMA, some are instead eligible for comparablebenefits under HUD's Katrina Disaster Housing AssistanceProgram. Housing vouchers will be given to evacuees who werepreviously in HUD-assisted housing programs or were homelessprevious to Katrina. These vouchers give evacuees the choiceand flexibility they need to find housing for 18 months. Throughthese programs, displaced families will have the opportunity torelocate to cities and towns of their choice where the housingavailability and job markets meet their immediate needs.” IfFEMA does not tell anyone about the Disaster HousingAssistance Program how can they come, if FEMA has a Disaster Housing Assistance Program to help and they makeit to hard for the people to get the help or if it is to hard tounderstand, then is it really a program to help the disastervictims, or is it JUST FOR SHOW like the fake newsconference? It is just like the fake news conference that FEMAheld., they did not tell the media about it so they could not come.Reporters were given only 15 minutes' notice of the briefing,making it unlikely many could show up at FEMA's SouthwestD.C. offices. They were given an 800 number to call in, thoughit was a "listen only" line, the notice said -- no questions. Partsof the briefing were carried live on Fox News (see the Fox Newsvideo of the news conference carried on the Think Progress Website), MSNBC and other outlets. Johnson stood behind a lecternand began with an overview before saying he would take a fewquestions. The first questions were about the "commodities"being shipped to Southern California and how officials aredealing with people who refuse to evacuate. He respondedeloquently. He was apparently quite familiar with the reporters-- in one case, he appears to say "Mike" and points to a reporter-- and was asked an oddly in-house question about "what itmeans to have an emergency declaration as opposed to a majordisaster declaration" signed by the president. He once againexplained smoothly. FEMA press secretary Aaron Walkerinterrupted at one point to caution he'd allow just "two morequestions." Later, he called for a "last question." Are you happywith FEMA's response so far?" a reporter asked. Another asked about "lessons learned from Katrina."
"I'm very happy withFEMA's response so far," Johnson said, hailing "a verysmoothly, very efficiently performing team." "And so I thinkwhat you're really seeing here is the benefit of experience, thebenefit of good leadership and the benefit of good partnership,"Johnson said, "none of which were present in Katrina." (Wasn'tMichael Chertoff DHS chief then?) Very smooth, very professional. But something didn't seem right. The reporters were lobbing too many softballs. No one asked about trailerswith formaldehyde for those made homeless by the fires. And the media seemed to be giving Johnson time to talk about FEMA'sgreatness. Of course, that could be because the questions wereasked by FEMA staffers playing reporters. We're told thequestions were asked by Cindy Taylor, FEMA's deputy directorof external affairs, and by "Mike" Widomski, the deputy directorof public affairs. Director of External Affairs John "Pat" Philbinasked a question, and another came, we understand, fromsomeone who sounds like press aide Ali Kirin. The fake news conference held by the Federal Emergency Management Agencylast week is becoming a story that just won’t go away. It’s a worst-case scenario for FEMA, whose new leadership team, installed after the Hurricane Katrina debacle, has been waitingfor the next major disaster to show the American public that it had learned its lessons. Boy did they show the lessons that they have learned.

Formaldehyde Concerns!!

”On Thursday, July 19, 2007, the Committee held an oversight hearing on the Federal Emergency ManagementAgency’s (FEMA) failure to respond adequately to reports of dangerous levels of formaldehyde in the trailers it provided to displaced victims of the Gulf Coast hurricanes. Witnesses at thehearing included current and former occupants ofFEMA-provided trailers, an industrial hygienist, a pediatriciantestifying on behalf of the American Academy of Pediatrics, andthe current Administrator of FEMA. At the hearing, theCommittee heard about the adverse health effects the displacedvictims of the Gulf Coast hurricanes experienced while living inFEMA-provided trailers and FEMA’s failure to respond to their concerns.The Committee received testimony from three displaced Gulf Coast hurricane victims: Paul Stewart, LindsayHuckabee, and James Harris, Jr. These witnesses testified aboutthe adverse health effects they and their families experiencedwhile living in FEMA-provided trailers and FEMA’snon-responsiveness. The adverse health effects the witnesses experienced included nose bleeds, watery eyes, respiratoryproblems, and flu-like symptoms. According to the testimonyreceived, these adverse health effects were common for familiesliving in FEMA-provided trailers in the Gulf Coast. Ms. MaryDeVany, an industrial hygienist, testified that the limited testingthat had been completed by the Sierra Club revealed thatunacceptably high levels of formaldehyde were typical in thetrailers. Additionally, Chairman Waxman released a summaryof internal FEMA documents discussing the agency’s responseto reports of dangerous formaldehyde levels. The documentsrevealed that FEMA had recognized the presence and danger of formaldehyde as early as March 2006. Although FEMA fieldstaff urged a response to protect public health, FEMAheadquarters, particularly its Office of General Counsel,intervened to prevent action from being taken to understand andaddress the public health implications of the formaldehyde.Despite numerous complaints, FEMA tested only one occupiedtrailer to determine its levels of formaldehyde. The testconfirmed that the levels of formaldehyde were extraordinarilyhigh, presenting an immediate health risk to the occupants. Theindustrial safety specialist explained that formaldehyde is in theglue used to keep the particle board and plywood on the trailerwalls. Not only can it bring on respiratory miseries of all sorts,from scratchy throats to bloody noses to breathing difficulties,but it's a known carcinogen. While OSHA standards allow forhealthy, adult workers to be exposed to trace amounts offormaldehyde, they need to use a respirator when levels reach.016 parts per million. And, of course, these workers get to gohome to sleep in clean air at night. On the Gulf Coast, infantsand children and the elderly live 24/7 in trailers which have beentested by environmental groups as having up to .75 parts permillion. Note that when FEMA did finally check out theirtrailers, they first opened all the windows and had the air runningconstantly for a few days before doing the air-quality test. Sowhen an internal FEMA email stated that "there are no healthconcerns due to formaldehyde in our trailers," they werereferring to the air from their rigged test, not the actualair-quality conditions in their trailers. The monitored levels were75 times higher than what the National Institute of OccupationalSafety and Health recommend for adult exposure in industrialworkplaces. FEMA did not test any other occupied trailers, andreleased a public statement discounting any risk associated withformaldehyde exposure. FEMA suppressed the warnings fromits own field workers about hundreds of health problemsexperienced by hurricane Katrina and Rita evacuees living intrailers provided by the government. E-mails obtained byinvestigators clearly show that FEMA's lawyers rejected aproposal for systematic testing of the levels of potentiallycancer-causing formaldehyde gas in the trailers. Documentsprovided to the Committee showed that despite repeated requestsby FEMA field staff to conduct testing, FEMA’s Office ofGeneral Counsel denied these requests because “should theyindicate some problem, the clock is running on our duty torespond.” Administrator Paulison admitted during the hearingthat FEMA “could have moved faster” and that it would nowaddress the problem. FEMA Director David Paulison apologizedand said "in hindsight" that FEMA should have tested trailersearlier. "The health and safety of residents is my primaryconcern," he said. But he depicted the 200 or so complaints asvoiced by a small fraction of the total number of families intrailers, and said more research is needed to determine why sometrailer residents have become sickened, and what level offormaldehyde is unsafe in homes. Now it there is news thatinternal email from FEMA forbidding their employees to enterthe FEMA particularly dangerous trailers because of theformaldehyde risk. Yet FEMA is not doing anything for thenearly 50,000 people that are still living in the trailers 24 hoursa day in Louisiana. FEMA also has decided to halt the CDC’stesting of the trailers levels of formaldehyde. FEMA said that ithas no plan for how to deal with the information once it’srevealed. It is clear that FEMA is fully aware of the danger posedby formaldehyde by its policy with its own employees regardingFEMA forbidding their employees to enter the FEMA trailers.The people at FEMA that are responsible should be broughtup on criminal charges and held accountable for theirdecisions to put American lives in danger and if it is provedthat one person has died from exposure to formaldehyde orhealth problems exacerbated by formaldehyde they shouldbe charged with murder, attempted murder or manslaughter. That a government agency charged with protecting us is slowlykilling us instead, this should be the front-page news, and weshould not stand for it. There needs to be a special place in Hellfor this man, and many others in this Administration for allowingthis to go on.

Who Needs Food?

FEMA had been providing free food services (threemeals per day) for the Groom Road group site, since it openedon Oct. 6, 2005 We were told that food services would bediscontinue on April 6. Once again we were told that we would get the food free for 18 months. Again FEMA went back ontheir word. All of the promises have gone down the drain.

Who needs Propane?

FEMA had been providing free propane and food services (three meals per day) for the Groom Road group site,since it opened on Oct. 6, 2005. When we moved into the siteFEMA said they would pay for the electric, water, propane andwith a kitchen at the location they would feed the people. FEMA said we should just concentrate on getting our lives backtogether. We were told that propane services will discontinue onFeb. 1, 2006 at 5:00 p.m.. FEMA went back on their word in lessthen 4 months. We were told that we would get the propane freefor 18 months. FEMA said that they did not say we would getthe propane free for 18 months. Michael Cosbar with FEMA said“they may have been given inaccurate information at the shelter”. Some people did not get the information at the shelter.Some came to the site and it was at Renaissance Village that theFEMA employees told them that FEMA would pay for theelectric, water, propane and with a kitchen at the location they would feed the people This was in the middle of winter, and in a trailer that did not have sufficient insulation to keep the trailers very warm. The propane is needed to heat the trailers, hot water,as well as the gas stove and oven. How to pay for the tanks,which cost more than $20 apiece, has become a major focus forsome residents. You need to keep in mind that this was in lessthen 4 months of coming to the site and a lot of people arestarting over with all they have being lost to the hurricane andthe flooding. I mean no job, no clothes, no car, no home orpossessions of any kind, and at this point some people do not even know where their friends or family are or if they are even alive. Yet FEMA expected them to be able to pay for propane.

FEMA rewrote the Constitution for Trailer Parks!!

FEMA also had a rule that prohibits journalists from having unsupervised interviews with Hurricane Katrina victims who have been relocated to FEMA trailer parks. “If a residentinvites the media to the trailer, they have to be escorted by aFEMA representative who sits in on the interview,” FEMAspokesperson Rachel Rodi said “That’s just a policy.”. The Advocate report, by reporter Sandy Davis, describes two separate attempts to talk to people displaced by Katrina that were haltedby the intervention of a FEMA security guard. In the first incident, in a Morgan City, Louisiana camp, an interview wasinterrupted by a guard who claimed that residents of the campare “not allowed” to talk to the media. “You are not allowed to be here,” the guard is quoted as telling the reporter. “Get outright now.” The guard reportedly called police to force thejournalist to leave the camp, and even prevented the reporterfrom giving the interview subject a business card. “You will not give her a business card,” the guard said. “She’s not allowed to have that.”. Later, at another FEMA camp in PlaqueminesParish, Louisiana, the reporter attempted to talk to camp resident Pansy Ardeneaux through a chain link fence when the sameguard halted the interview. “You are not allowed to talk to these people,” the guard told Ardeneaux. “Return to your trailer now.”The reporter said she and an accompanying photographer were“ordered...not to talk to anyone or take pictures.. Earlier, an interview with displaced Katrina victims by Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! (4/24/06) was halted by FEMA securityguards. Tape-recording the accounts of residents of theFEMA-run Renaissance Village camp outside Baton Rouge,Louisiana, Goodman was approached by FEMA-hired securityguards from Corporate Security Solutions who told her to “turnit off.” When Goodman explained that the resident had asked tobe interviewed, she was told, “He can't. That’s not his privilege.”. Restrictions on the right of citizens to speak freely to the press without government supervision are a clear violation ofthe 1st Amendment. “They cannot deny media access,” GreggLeslie, the legal defense director of the Reporters Committee forFreedom of the Press, told the Advocate, saying that FEMA’srestrictions were “clearly unconstitutional … and definitely not legal.” Referring to the requirement that interview subjects havea FEMA escort, Leslie said, “That’s a standard for a prison, nota relief park and a temporary shelter.”. Timothy Matte, the mayorof Morgan City, expressed surprise that FEMA was enforcing limits on the free speech of disaster victims. “You would think the people would have the same freedom there as everyone elsehas,” he said. When Michael Cosbar, who oversees most of the agency's trailer communities in the state, learned that Christiangroups were regularly leading Bible study classes and holding Sunday school and other religious services he announced onFebruary 16 that FEMA would no longer allow them. MichaelCosbar, said the church issue is just the latest trailer-parkheadache that his agency did not anticipate. That was just onemore of our constitutional rights FEMA wanted us to give up.This rule was over turned later. Are you starting to see a pattern here?

Modern Day Concentration Camp!

When you first drive up on the FEMA site you see a chain-link fenced in property with stark crowded trailers and no trespassing signs posted along the perimeter. When you drive upto the entrance you will see security guards at the front gate. Itdoesn’t take much of a closer look to notice that the security guards are armed. FEMA requires all residents to carry Renaissance Village ID badges at all times.
You will have to show your ID’s, tell them who you are going to see and their trailer number and they will write down your licence platenumber on your vehicle when you come in. Mark Misczak, the agency’s human services director for Louisiana said it is“private, like a gated community”. It is unlike any gated community we have ever known of, except a prison. When the site opened FEMA had a ban on firearms. Col.Greg Phares, chief sheriff’s deputy in Baton Rouge, had asked for FEMA to say firearms would not be permitted on site, just as you can’t bring firearms into the federal building, into the Legislature in Baton Rouge, into an LSU football game.
Is that a reason to deny any ones constitutional rights. National RifleAssociation and Second Amendment Foundation sought to change this rule, saying the original policy violated Second Amendment protections for gun ownership. FEMA made the change after consulting with their lawyers. NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre praised the change. “It is wrong to force citizens to give up their constitutional rights in order for them to get a needed federal benefit,” he said in a news release.

We are the people of Renaissance Village

Renaissance Village has many times been referred too as“FEMA's Dirty Little Secret”. It is more likely that RenaissanceVillage is FEMA’s and HUD’s “Inconvenient Truth”. The sky might have been blue over Renaissance Village, but it is always raining in our world.
Where hope is disappointment.
Where recovery is a mirage.
Where life is a nightmare.
Where housing assistance is a dream.
Where confusion is everywhere.
Where compassion is fleeting.
Where depression is reality.
Where FEMA travel trailer means Sickness and Death.
We ask you to Please take the time to listen and learn,because the truth can only speak if you take the time to listen.We also ask you to take action in anyway you can to help themistreated people. Disasters will happen again, and when thenext one comes, you might be the one wanting fair and impartialtreatment. Renaissance Village is row after row after row of 573stark white Travel Trailers crammed onto a vast dusty lot. They are placed in such close quarters and have so little insulation thatif you sneeze in side your trailer, your next door neighbor feelsobligated to say god bless you from inside their trailer, and if you belch you feel obligated to say excuse me to your neighbor. It was built as temporary housing for those left homeless byHurricanes Katrina or Rita. They are not homes they areweekend campers designed to be lived in 30 hours a month onweekend trips or vacations. With one or two people in a total living space for bedrooms, living room, kitchen, dinning room,and bathroom of 125 square feet to 225 square feet it is hard let alone families with 6 to 8 people, some of which will be children. If you do not think this is a hardship on a family Isuggest you try it for a week, no try it for over 100 weeks. Not tomention the effect that it has on the children spending 1/8 of their childhood in a place like this. The 62-acre park was built on pasture land owned by the nearby Jetson Center for Youth. It is like other trailer sites that the Federal Emergency ManagementAgency (FEMA) has erected around Louisiana since HurricanesKatrina and Rita. Although it is considerably bigger than most itcertainly isn’t pretty. The roads that separate the travel trailers are covered with dusty gravel that radiates clouds of gray dust every time a car passes by, every breeze creates a dust that fills your lungs. The dust hangs in the air and leaves an uncomfortable film over your entire body and everything else atthe FEMA site.
When it rains the site is turned into a river ofwater and a lakes of water and mud.


The human tragedy that was brought about by Hurricane Katrina and Rita was on such a scale that it overwhelmed the disaster system that is in place at the time. What this has meant is that families have been displaced in an unprecedented numbers thathas never happened in any other disaster before. Families haveneed unprecedented disaster housing needs. These needs should be met with a compassionate response. The short term and long term housing needs were many. The response by our governmentwas rampant with partisan politics and racially motivated. We must hold those in authority accountable, and demonstrate with the truth that are misleading the public with their lies. What we want is real accountability not the blame game. The real need is to help the survivors rebuild their lives, to help disaster victims get back on their feet, not on to the streets.The head of FEMA, Administrator Paulison said, “While we are proud of the tremendous progress we’ve made, we won’t besatisfied until every disaster victim has successfully navigatedthe road to recovery.” He should be required to make his statement a reality, not a hollow meaningless press release.