Yesterday, Gulf coast residents and advocates gathered in front of the Federal Emergency Management Agency building to protest eviction notices delivered to over 5,000 families still living in trailers some four years after Hurricane Katrina. The press conference speakers -- a diverse bunch that included representatives from faith-based groups, conservative groups, student organizations and ACORN -- called on Barack Obama to honor his campaign pledge to restore the storm-ravaged Gulf Coast.
"We want to see you step up to the plate," said Judith Browne-Dianis, co-director of the Advancement Project, a D.C.-based non-profit "action tank" for social justice. The evictions are happening "on your watch. You need to develop a plan for permanent housing," for those displaced by the storms, said Browne-Dianis.
FEMA began delivering eviction notices in May. As of yesterday, anyone who still remained in the trailers may have to deal with the Department of Justice. Problem is, as Derrick Evans of the Turkey Creek Community Initiatives, stated, "Families are still living in FEMA trailers because they have no where to go."
Many homeowners in Alabama, Mississippi, and Texas who lost property in Katrina have not benefited from the same kind of access to federal Katrina funds as those in Louisiana. This was mostly due to state negligence, or officials' discretionary use of funds for purposes other than housing (e.g. the Port of Gulfport).
The advocates today made aggressive calls for recognition of the Gulf Coast Civic Works Act (H.R. 2269). The bill if passed would provide hundreds of thousands of green jobs to Gulf Coast citizens in rebuilding and retrofitting houses, wetland restoration, energy efficiency projects and sustainable infrastructure work. It's important to note that before the national foreclosure crisis, there was a storm-closure crisis in the Gulf Coast, which put thousands out of homes before banks could. A coalition of over 200 organizations, mobilized by the Gulf Coast Civic Works Campaign and the Equity and Inclusion Campaign, is hoping that the GCCWA will win the attention of Obama, who's all but ignored it and failed to include it in his own green jobs proposal, despite the fact the proposal has been circulating since at least 2007.
A bipartisan group of House Representatives -- Joseph Cao (R-Louisiana), Charlie Melancon (D-Louisiana), Gene Taylor (D-Mississippi), Rodney Alexander (R-Louisiana) and Zoe Lofgren (D-California) -- wrote a letter to Congress urging for more co-sponsors of the bill (there are currently 16; 75 are reportedly needed for it to reach committee). Passage of a bill that provides even a tenth of the jobs called for in the GWCCA could more than provide for these 5,000 families. As Evans stated at the conference: A dry roof over a toxic tincan beats no roof at all.
-- Brentin Mock