The Times Picayune has 2 articles today which taken together show the paradox of the bitter and bittersweet twists of the Road Home for New Orleanians…the living and the deceased.
The first is a long article which chronicles the continuing problems of the “understaffed and overwhelmed” Road Home program impeding the homecoming…of the living:
So far, more than 100,000 homeowners in Louisiana have
applied for a Road Home grant, but the vast majority of
those applications are stuck in the pipeline.
Though ICF originally claimed many applicants would
receive their money six to eight weeks after an initial
meeting with a housing adviser, some homeowners have been
waiting six months. At least one applicant died before the
process was completed.
According to its most recent report, ICF has sent nearly
30,000 award letters worth up to $2.2 billion in grants and
loans, but the money that has actually reached the hands of
the lucky 215 applicants amounts to a paltry total
disbursement of $11.8 million. Altogether, the program has
$7.5 billion to dole out to homeowners. On average,
they’ve been offered $78,740 per settlement, though the
215 awards now finalized have come in substantially lower,
at $54,932 per household.
Then there is the second article which chronicles the daily movement of once displaced and now deceased residents coming home…for burial in New Orleans:
Those scattered by Katrina may be unsure about whether
they will return. But many are certain about one thing —
when they die, they are going home.
Before Katrina, New Orleans area funeral directors
typically drove around the corner or down the street to pick
up bodies.Now they drive to the airport nearly every day to
retrieve “ship-ins” from aircraft cargo holds.
Duane Cruse remembers feeling unsettled as he drove from
Atlanta to New Orleans, knowing that his wife’s body
was being returned by air. “The idea that she was
traveling without me felt strange,” he said.
But burial in New Orleans is what Ramona Cruse, 44, had
said she wanted, as she lay dying in an Atlanta hospital
“Her spirit is at rest,” Cruse said. “New
Orleans may be a mess. But this is where she wanted to
Louisiana Undertaking Co. funeral director Renard
Boissiere has become accustomed since Katrina to the sight
of caskets — sometimes seven or eight at a time —
being pulled out of the hold of jets parked at Louis
Armstrong International. “I know that large long
container — it’s bodies.” (all emphasis mine)