Well This Will Be Controversial

From Scout:

Former residents of public housing in NOLA want to know why they are not allowed to return to their apartments though they appear habitable. WWLTV reported on one such resident….

Although their home in the C.J. Peete housing development has no signs of flood or wind damage and is powered by electricity, they aren’t being allowed back in. What’s worse is that she’s facing a March 1 deadline to get out of the FEMA-paid hotel room she’s currently in.

Morgan doesn’t understand what the delay is in being allowed to return home to a place she says is even better than her hotel room.

“Look around, we don’t have no water damage,” she emphasized. “My children don’t deserve to go through this and it’s pitiful.”

Morgan shares the same frustration as hundreds of other public housing development residents who just want to go home.

Nadine Jarmon, a spokeswoman for the Housing Authority of New Orleans, said the organization is trying to rectify the situation.

“The one’s that we can reoccupy, we’re reoccupying,” she said.


When questioned as to why more residents couldn’t occupy second and third floors of developments as many private homeowners are doing, Jarmon said that in many instances residents would have to travel through first floors that remain heavily-damaged with mold and sludge to get to the second and third floors, making the risk unacceptable.

Ebony Morgan said she’s willing to do what it takes to speed up the process.

“I will work for these people. A lot of our residents will work for them and they just need to let us come home.”

This is where it gets Controversial. Apparently the hang-up is due in large part to the message that went out Monday …… if you don’t want to work, don’t return to New Orleans. According to the Times Picayune, Jarmon appeared before the Housing Committee meeting of the New Orleans City Council on Monday and related that they are instituting changes in criteria for accepting residents that are “designed to yield a hardier crop of residents than before the storm.”

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From Scout:

But Jarmen said they are already implementing changes to how they select residents for permanent public housing available. In the Iberville development, for instance, roughly 400 of the 800 families who lived there before the storm want to return, HANO officials said. But all future residents have to jump through some unusual and new hoops. Officials said they include a background security check, which most former residents already had done, and a series of questions about employment history and prospects.

They dubbed the new wrinkles a, “working preference,” for future inhabitants. Basically, the questions center around pre-Katrina employment and post-Katrina employment plans.

“Part of the overall process is asking about people’s ability or willingness to work,” Jarmen said. “If someone says, ‘well, my income qualifies me for public housing and I want to come home,’ but they don’t express a willingness to work, or they don’t have a training background, or they weren’t working before Katrina, then you’re making a decision to pass over those people.

“Yeah, it’s going to be controversial,” she said .

Perhaps more striking were the comments of Council members who were supportive of the new initiative. City Council President Oliver Thomas had this to say…….

Consequently, former residents who don’t want, “to roll up their sleeves,” are better off staying away, he said, in remarks that generated murmured agreement from some members of the audience at the council chambers.

“We don’t need soap opera watchers right now,” Thomas said. “We’re going to target the people who are going to work. It’s not that I’m fed up, but that at some point there has to be a whole new level of motivation, and people have got to stop blaming the government for something they ought to do.”


Expressly directing his comments to African-American, Thomas, who is black, said: “There’s just been a lot of pampering and at some point you have to say, ‘no, no, no, no, no,’. . . . If our legs don’t hurt you can walk somewhere. I’m saying these things to motivate my people.”

Two other Council members also voiced support of what Thomas said. I think this will be controversial with a Capital C. It certainly raises the specter of racism and racial stereotypes that has hung over NOLA since Katrina struck. African Americans had already expressed concern that they are not welcome back in NOLA.

While resources are limited and much is needed to be done in NOLA it may sound reasonable to want people who will work to be residing in NOLA. But what ought to be the role of government in effecting such? Can the government ban you from returning to your home? Can the government in effect require some residents to be employed and not others? The onous of responsibility appears to be placed on individuals here with some extraordinary measures. Yet has the government demanded of itself to meet the same extraordinary measure of responsibility in the hard work of rebuilding? It would seem that instituting a government public works project to employ people and accomplish recovery and rebuilding would have made sense, certainly if you are requiring people to work apprently for the purpose of bringing NOLA back. That’s just one idea that has not happened. I’m all for taking responsibility, taking extraordinay measures in extraordinary times and hard work and working hard but I just think it ought to be fairly applied to Everyone, including the federal government and the Bush administration.