In a move that has no basis in rational thought or empathy or sympathy or good will, thousands of people who lost their homes to Hurricane Katrina are facing eviction today.
That's right. Starting today FEMA will repossess the temporary housing trailers being used by Americans displaced by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Now, these aren't people who figured they got a good deal, a free trailer and a place to stay; those being evicted are the elderly, the sick, and the poor, all the people who cannot afford the cost of new housing.
Earnest Hammond is a 70 year-old retired truck driver who received no assistance after Hurricane Katrina destroyed his home. He took matters into his own hands and by collecting aluminum cans, raised thousands of dollars to repair his badly damaged house. He is eager to move back but can't restore his home by the June 1st deadline, and is facing eviction. "I have nowhere to go if they take my trailer. It's hard to believe I have to go through this again."
Now, to be sure, the plan from the start was not to provide permanent housing for those displaced by Katrina, but just to give those who needed it a leg up; a chance to regroup and plan for the next phase of their lives. See, federal law prohibitsFEMA from providing emergency housing for more than 18 months. But officials continued to extend the deadline because of the severity of Hurricane Katrina.
Now there are no more extensions. Everyone out!
And, of course, there is the idea that these people, these people, as if they aren't like everyone else, are somehow living off the government and taking advantage of free housing. Sure, there might be some who fall into that category. But what about those who don't? The ones who lost everything? Why don't they just get out? Buy a house? Get a job?
Housing in the Gulf states has become more expensive in the years since Katrina and many cannot afford that. Incomes have fallen, so purchasing a house is even further out of reach for many. More than half of the people still living in FEMA trailers earn less than $20,000 annually. And monies loaned to Katrina victims to rebuild their homes often isn't enough money to complete the job, to cover the basic repairs.
One solution would be for the Obama administration and Congress to apply the United Nations' Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, a human rights policy that provides temporary and permanent homes for people in foreign countries who become displaced by earthquakes, typhoons, and flooding.
Why not bring this policy home?
Why not take care of our own?
If we can't do it, who will?