Sunday, April 16, 2006

If you lived in this house,

you'd be home now, at least as far as FEMA is concerned. A house don't need no stinkin' structure and foundation; a community don't need no basic comforts of civilization like food, water, sanitation, schools, medical care, roads, jobs, communication, a sense of the future... Hell, if it floods again maybe that "habitable home" in this picture here can be converted to a houseboat and do double duty.

More than 8000 families were evacuated to Houston after Katrina hit and Fearless Leader immediately flew down to survey the devastation, suffering, damage and pain, and then immediately mobilised federal, state and local resources to start to repair and rebuild... nah-h-h-h, that was LBJ when Hurricane Betsy hit that area some 40 years ago. Well, our FEMA has begun to notify the evacuee families in Houston that federal assistance would be ending because FEMA decided to sign off their homes as officially habitable. While FEMA apparently can't be bothered to coordinate any real effort to monitor and update agencies during this massive rebuilding effort, The Houston Chronicle actually sent professionals to New Orleans to assess some of the "habitable homes":

A team from Houston's Hurricane Housing Task Force, however, conducted a spot check of 43 New Orleans homes deemed "habitable" by FEMA and found 70 percent unfit for occupancy, White said Friday after a briefing by the team.

"Some of our worst fears were realized," White said. "Many of these notices were simply in error. The vast majority of the structures we inspected were not habitable by any standard."

The Houston team found 13 homes habitable and 30 uninhabitable, White said.

I have resurrected some of these Katrina issues this Easter Sunday because I went to Mississippi a few weeks ago to help in the clean-up effort. I spent a week just taking orders and doing grunt work (I'm so used to it), knocking down dry wall, picking up slats and shingles, scooping up piles of rotting wood and tree branches, general filth, books, appliances and god knows what else, moving broken pipes and car tyres, and viewed nothing but devastation and sealed buildings for as far as I could see. No families, no people there other than us and other volunteer teams. I wonder now if a few of the piles of wood we didn't get to might now be "FEMA-ready" for move-in immediate occupancy! Hey, I guess those evacuee homeowners will have a little while to get their homes up to code (without any federal assistance, of course) after they relocate from Houston or if they just can't manage to do, as the "safety of the individual homeowner and community demands", their homes will just have to be condemned as being unsafe I suppose, and the counties will just have to take over the condemned land and sell to some developer who can afford to rebuild according to code. That Catch-22 is sure some catch!

After leaving Mississippi and jumping back into my quotidian life with its own struggles I felt I had 2 hearts beating in me, one for my own life but also one for the people whose lives I have somehow borne wittness to, who have lost everything, every. thing., yet it looks like there are always more straws to put onto that camel's back... I hope this post doesn't seem too depressing and that it's alright to post something like this here (I waited a while to submerge some of my raw anger before interacting with anyone here). I know we can't all make this stop by running down there to rebuild and make things all better. We need the right troops, the National Gaurd currently doing duty in da 'Raq to come back and help rebuild here too. As for the concerns about rebuilding, I have done some research there. Short rebuild strategy: turn the project over to the Danes.

Also, scout_prime at First Draft has been reporting on Katrina and its after-shocks for 6 months. Today she posted a slide show prepared recently by Jose Fernandez after his trip there. Watch when you get the chance.

And yo, Fearless Leader, to quote Buffy, "A black eye heals, [BushBoy], but cowardice has an unlimited shelf-life".

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