Gulf Coast Realities at the next Democratic Presidential Debate (UPDATED)

UPDATE: The LA Justice Institute and The Children’s Defense Fund (Sen. Clinton’s former employer, I might add) have released preliminary data from a survey of families living in the 38,000 FEMA trailers still spread out around the Gulf Coast. They found that approximately 100,000 people live in those trailers, or an average of 3 people per unit. (FEMA trailers are about 400 sq ft, IIRC.)

Other findings include (their emphases):

Most families have been in the trailer for over 2 years, since the fall of 2005 or spring of 2006.

The majority of people living in FEMA trailers are employed. Many are retired.

15% report depression, anxiety, other symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health issues. 10% report that their mental health problems are their biggest obstacle to getting out of the trailer.

55% report that if they are evicted from their FEMA trailer in the next few months they have no family they can turn to for help and they expect to be homeless.

29% reported rashes, itchy eyes, breathing problems and other symptoms usually related to high levels formaldehyde in their FEMA trailer.

“Our presidential candidates must understand the plight of FEMA trailer residents and answer the tough questions those conditions present concerning affordable permanent housing for Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita survivors. This is no way to treat our people!”


Though the Democratic debate in Austin on Thursday has limited space for the public, there is an opportunity for folks in the vicinity to visit the KatrinaRitaVille Express: The National FEMA Trailer Tour. From krvexpress.org:

This is a rare opportunity to place our region’s unaddressed recovery/justice needs squarely before the candidates, media and US electorate. Our FEMA Trailer and a caravan of survivors/speakers from coastal AL, MS, LA and TX would certainly help raise the region’s national visibility.

Friends at UT Law School’s Justice Center are currently looking into a day-long exhibit and speak-out at some campus location not far from Thursday night’s debate.

With your help, the event will feature the trailer, human testimonials, video, and the distribution of information on housing, environment and other social justice/policy needs for gulf coast communities.

Click here for more debate info.

Meanwhile, legal activists have filed another lawsuit to halt demolition in the on-going public housing struggle in New Orleans, even as buildings at C.J. Peete, B.W. Cooper, and St. Bernard have come down (No word on any demolition at Lafitte). In DC, Sen. Landrieu has again marked up S. 1668, the Gulf Coast Housing Recovery Act, to renew the negotiations with her colleagues and staunch opponents, Sens. Shelby (R-AL) and Vitter (R-LA), on this critical affordable housing bill.

This fight is far from over! ! !!


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