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  1. #1
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    Wearying Wait for Federal Aid

    What happened to Bush's promises to these people?

    *********************************************

    December 3, 2005
    Wearying Wait for Federal Aid in New Orleans
    By ADAM NOSSITER


    NEW ORLEANS, Dec. 2 - They are the faces and voices of a city's desperation. Stepping wearily up to a Federal Emergency Management Agency help center here, all have a similar story of ruin in the past, anxiety over the future and frustration in the present, suffered differently each time.

    Young, middle-aged and old, these citizens of New Orleans, wiped out by Hurricane Katrina and now urgently seeking government assistance, spoke Friday of sleeping in a truck and on a floor, living out of a car and waiting for the help that never seems to come. Trickling into the crowded center in the Uptown neighborhood here - hoping for a trailer, a loan, cash, anything - they were grimly resigned to waiting, and waiting some more.

    "You come to these FEMA centers, you sit all day," said Myrna Guity, 43, whose import business was wiped out by the storm, along with her home in New Orleans East. "You get no answers to your questions. They're evasive. You're constantly 'pending.' What are you going to be doing, 'pending' for the rest of your life? I've lost everything."

    Others wondered fearfully what was on the other side of their current privation. "We're almost begging them, 'Please, bring this trailer before Christmas,' " said DeLois Kramer, 43, who said she is "sort of living out of the car" with her 7-year-old daughter, Katlyn.

    Three months after the storm, political figures here talk often of the progress that has been made - trash cleared, homes lighted, money spent. Louisiana, they say, is proving its self-reliance. But hidden behind these sometimes rosy declarations are tens of thousands of their constituents, living at the edge of their dwindling resources.

    Adding to their anxiety is what these citizens describe as a frustrating paper chase through the bureaucracy of FEMA: repeat visits for help that always seems to be just one or two documents away, but the documents FEMA demands are often ruined, stored in flooded houses.

    Many spoke of once-comfortable existences, turned suddenly into an anxious struggle simply to get by.

    On Friday morning, in fact, Ms. Kramer realized that there was a way to describe her situation. She was standing in front of the Jewish Community Center on St. Charles Avenue here, where FEMA has set up one of three New Orleans assistance centers, along with several mobile units.

    "We're homeless, that's what we are," said Ms. Kramer, a disabled former substance abuse counselor and nursing aide. Her apartment, near one of the levee breaks, was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.

    She and her daughter have a floor to sleep on, with "extended relatives," 70 miles away in St. Gabriel. But they must leave early each day; the relatives are increasingly "agitated," Ms, Kramer said. Every day mother and daughter are on the road, in a car packed with their clothing, going from help center to help center. "I'm very frustrated. And it's starting to take a toll on her," Ms. Kramer said, gesturing toward Katlyn.

    "Are we being punished?" the little girl asks her.

    Rosemary Varnado, 59, and her husband, Charles, 63, a truck driver, slept in one of his rigs for 25 days. It was a "miserable" experience, Ms. Varnado said, "just horrible." She has high blood pressure and an intestinal problem. Their home in the Lower Ninth Ward was destroyed in the flood, and now they are seeking a trailer. "We've been waiting, and waiting," Ms. Varnado said.

    "Why is it taking so long?

    They don't know the suffering we've had to go through," she added. "We're suffering, but they are moving slow. We have no clothes, no nothing."

    Ms. Varnado, who worked as a nurse's assistant, said emphatically: "We are people that have worked and paid taxes, all our lives. That's the important thing."

    A FEMA spokesman said Friday that the agency was working as fast as it could to aid the thousands still destitute from the storm.

    "I don't know if you understand the magnitude of this disaster," said the spokesman, James McIntyre. "Almost 1.5 million people have registered for assistance, and we're working to help them all."

    Mr. McIntyre continued: "We're working as fast as we possibly can to meet their needs, and help them receive assistance for damages from these disasters."

    Another FEMA official, the manager of an assistance center in the Lower Garden District here, suggested the mental anguish of many of his clients was now palpable.

    "As people come in, they become desperate," said the official, Manuel Walker, who manages the Jackson Avenue center. "They're coming back, thinking they can live in their dwelling. And then all of a sudden, there's nothing."

    With no place to live in New Orleans, several people entering the Uptown center spoke of frequent long drives to obtain help from FEMA here. Agency officials, backed by armed guards, refused to allow a reporter into the center's giant interviewing room, where long tables lined with seated aid seekers had been set up.

    "I lost my business. I lost my home. We need everything," said Steven Reed, 37, a graphics designer who was commuting seven hours from Tyler, in East Texas, where he was living with his family at the Baptist Church of Gresham.

    "I keep having to bring them more paperwork," Mr. Reed said. "They ask for paperwork. But the paper is at the house. And the house was under eight feet of water."

    A father of four, Mr. Reed said he lost thousands of dollars' worth of equipment - computers and lenses.

    "The whole society is not understanding what a disaster it was," he said. "You're waking up in the morning with no tissues, no toothpaste, no nothing. Right now, if I took any person in America, and say, 'This is not your house any more.' " He paused, adding, "How do you expect me to function?"

    Luis Colmenares, a prominent local metal sculptor, unshaven and discouraged, walked away from the center here Friday afternoon. He lost $400,000 worth of equipment, and an art-metal business that employed 17. Hours on the phone with FEMA workers had been "horrible," he said.

    "I kept saying, 'I have nothing,' " Mr. Colmenares said. "We've got food stamps, and that's pretty much it."

  2. #2
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    Re: Wearying Wait for Federal Aid

    This article is one that does a very good job of using valid information at the time it was collected to make things look worse now than they are.

    There are quotes here talking about the water level and houses being 8 feet under water. In late October, New Orleans was basically pumped dry.

    As for why is it taking so long, have you ever been through a natural disaster and needed to get assistance? I have a couple of times and during the period we where waiting for assistance it seemed to take forever. Looking back at it and taking into account how many people needed assistance, it didn't take very long at all.

    If you take alway the personal feelings and look at the numbers it might make more sense as to why it takes some time to get assistance to everyone. For every person to have received assistance, 11.57 people would have to have been processed and money distributed every minute 24 hours a day 7 days a week for all 1.5 million people to have been provided assistance in full by this point in time.

    Many people are being provided temporary housing in the form of trailers. These have to be built and shipped to the area. Roads have to be built or repaired or at least cleared to get them there. This is a huge assistance project and to think it will be completed overnight is a pipe dream.

    We experienced a major ice storm where I live last year that wiped out power and phone lines for the better part of a week EVERY WHERE and many parts of the area where without poer for up to 3 weeks. When you went outside, everywhere you looked there where trees down, power lines down, and thoushands of truck and crews trying to get things restored. The area was declared a disaster area and FEMA cam in to provide assistance. We didn't need new houses, or close, or job and it still took over 8 weeks to finish processing all the assistance requests.

    It is terrible what happened in New Orleans and the areas around there. But to say promises are not being kept because not everyone has received everythig they need at this point is short sighted. Before anything could be done, people had to be relocated, emergency repairs had to be made, and that is just the beginning.

    It is sad that not everyone has gotten what they need to get their lives back to where they where pre-Katrina, but some things simply do not happen over night. Not long after Katrina went through we had another Hurrican you might remember called Rita. It leveled parts of south Florida, making parts of Miami look like a nuclear bomb had gone off. The Keys where devistated as well and all that takes FEMA resources. If nothing was being done it would be one thing, taking time to get everything accomplished is quite another and does not imply broken promises.

  3. #3
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    Re: Wearying Wait for Federal Aid

    Who's implying the promises have been broken? I want to know why they aren't being implemented faster. They pull FEMA trailers out of my city daily. There is a trailer city set up at Red River Army depot, I think supposed to be thousands of trailers (I can't be certain as civilians aren't allowed on base) but no one is living in them is what some of my friends who work there say.

    And I do know several people working in New Orleans right now for FEMA and for an ambulance service. I've lived through a disaster myself Reg, with the ice storm of 1999 hitting Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas, I know it takes a long time to clean things up. But some of these stories, geez, one would think that FEMA could do a much better job of following through on the president's words to these folks.

    I have friends in Florida. Several in fact, and family (a couple affected by Rita). The response there is much faster and more thorough. Maybe this is a Louisiana state government problem? Or maybe it's because the governor is not related to the president. Whatever it is, this problem should get corrected, and quickly.

    Lady Mod

  4. #4
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    Re: Wearying Wait for Federal Aid

    Quote Originally Posted by sojustask
    Who's implying the promises have been broken? I want to know why they aren't being implemented faster. They pull FEMA trailers out of my city daily. There is a trailer city set up at Red River Army depot, I think supposed to be thousands of trailers (I can't be certain as civilians aren't allowed on base) but no one is living in them is what some of my friends who work there say.
    Your first line of the post implies promises have been broken.
    What happened to Bush's promises to these people?

    You want to know why they haven't been implemented faster, take a look at the region and the number of people who have requested aid (1.5 million requests). This does not take into account those that where given aid immediately after the event.

    In my town we have 10 families living in one of the finest hotels here and many other living with friends and families in the area. May be that there simply are not people who wish to live in the trailor city there.

    Quote Originally Posted by sojustask
    And I do know several people working in New Orleans right now for FEMA and for an ambulance service. I've lived through a disaster myself Reg, with the ice storm of 1999 hitting Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas, I know it takes a long time to clean things up. But some of these stories, geez, one would think that FEMA could do a much better job of following through on the president's words to these folks.
    I have no idea if they could be doing a better job or not. Those I know of who are working with FEMA and as volunteers are working as fast and as hard as they can. If they could give any more they would, but they only have so many hours in the day and so much strength in their bodies.

    Many of my associates have sent crews in to help, only to be turned away by the state authorities. Not much they can do when they are turned away at the state level.

    Quote Originally Posted by sojustask
    I have friends in Florida. Several in fact, and family (a couple affected by Rita). The response there is much faster and more thorough. Maybe this is a Louisiana state government problem? Or maybe it's because the governor is not related to the president. Whatever it is, this problem should get corrected, and quickly.

    Lady Mod
    Nice stab at the relationship between the Govenor of Florida and the President. The associates I have in the area are fuming at FEMA there as well saying they are not moving fast enough. My family, many of whom live in the Miami area, are not overly impressed with the response either. People I know in the Keys swear they will never touch foot on what they call the "main land" because of the lack of help they have received from the government.

    The political corruption in LA is not a major secret, especially to those of us who have lived in or near the state. It very well could be a LA state delay. But even so, trying to process 1.5 million requests from people who have been relocated all across the south and midwest is not an easy task.

    As for the story, there are many quotes from people that appear to have been quoted early on in the disaster. Using them as late as December and claiming they have not gotten any help is very unbelievable unless they have done absolutely nothing to help themselves up until this point. FEMA is not there to make them whole immediately following a disaster, they are there to help provide for the immediate needs of food, shelter, and cloths. This seems to have been done fairly quickly. Now it takes a while to finish helping with more major problems like lost businesses, lost houses, lost belongings. Insurance companies are there for much of that.

  5. #5
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    Re: Wearying Wait for Federal Aid

    Quote Originally Posted by RegulationE
    Your first line of the post implies promises have been broken.
    What happened to Bush's promises to these people?

    You want to know why they haven't been implemented faster, take a look at the region and the number of people who have requested aid (1.5 million requests). This does not take into account those that where given aid immediately after the event.

    In my town we have 10 families living in one of the finest hotels here and many other living with friends and families in the area. May be that there simply are not people who wish to live in the trailor city there.
    Point taken, perhaps I should have worded it differently instead of rushing. When these trailers were brought in, it looked like they were being set up for people to live in here, but, and this is a guess, I'm thinking that the army depot is just a "holding tank" for them to be moved. We still have a lot of refugees in people's homes and into apartments, rent houses and yes, trailers here. We got a lot of the refugees here after Houston, Tyler and Dallas filled up.

    Nice stab at the relationship between the Govenor of Florida and the President. The associates I have in the area are fuming at FEMA there as well saying they are not moving fast enough. My family, many of whom live in the Miami area, are not overly impressed with the response either. People I know in the Keys swear they will never touch foot on what they call the "main land" because of the lack of help they have received from the government.
    Liked that huh? LOL, I did that just for you to comment on, I couldn't resist bringing it up. ;) But it is interesting to hear that some in Florida are fuming at FEMA as well. I wonder then, if all this problem has something to do with lack of orginization? What do you think? Maybe they just still dont' have their act together at FEMA.

    The political corruption in LA is not a major secret, especially to those of us who have lived in or near the state. It very well could be a LA state delay. But even so, trying to process 1.5 million requests from people who have been relocated all across the south and midwest is not an easy task.

    As for the story, there are many quotes from people that appear to have been quoted early on in the disaster. Using them as late as December and claiming they have not gotten any help is very unbelievable unless they have done absolutely nothing to help themselves up until this point. FEMA is not there to make them whole immediately following a disaster, they are there to help provide for the immediate needs of food, shelter, and cloths. This seems to have been done fairly quickly. Now it takes a while to finish helping with more major problems like lost businesses, lost houses, lost belongings. Insurance companies are there for much of that.
    Well, it was out of a newspaper online. And I think the reference to houses under water was probably that guy relating to his (ongoing) situation from the beginning and bringing it up to the present.

    Louisiana, now there's a state that could use some major reforming. But that would be another thread. :D

    Thanks for the input Reg.

    Lady Mod

  6. #6
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    Re: Wearying Wait for Federal Aid

    Quote Originally Posted by sojustask
    Liked that huh? LOL, I did that just for you to comment on, I couldn't resist bringing it up. ;) But it is interesting to hear that some in Florida are fuming at FEMA as well. I wonder then, if all this problem has something to do with lack of orginization? What do you think? Maybe they just still dont' have their act together at FEMA.
    I am not a huge fan of FEMA, it has never seemed to run very efficently under any administration. It is an example of a government run social agency, while the intentions are good they have too much red tape.

    Having been associated with America's Second Harvest Food Bank (www.secondharvest.com) through a regional distribution center over the past 15 years, I have had the opportunity to see what can be done and how fast it can be done when governmental red tape (local or national) doesn't get in the way.

    After 9/11, I watched and help send 15 semi loads of supplies and personnel to help distribute them to New York within 72 hours. After each of the four hurricanes that hit Florida last year our region center arranged for and supplied approximately 10 semi loads of supplies and provided personnel within 96 hours.

    Katrina and Rita where much different. The supplies where acquired and staged, but trying to get them into the New Orlean's ares turned out to be next to impossible. The receiving food banks could not accept them due to damage or transportation limitations in the area.The supplies where sent as far south as possible, some ending up in Atlanta, Alabama, and Tennessee before being rerouted to areas where the refugees where being sent. The call to stop sending appeared to have come from the State.

    Quote Originally Posted by sojustask
    Thanks for the input Reg.

    Lady Mod
    Always welcome! I actually like conversing with you and deedee. You both tend to be willing to listen to another point of view even when/if you disagree.

  7. #7
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    Re: Wearying Wait for Federal Aid

    Quote Originally Posted by RegulationE

    Always welcome! I actually like conversing with you and deedee. You both tend to be willing to listen to another point of view even when/if you disagree.
    LOL, I am glad you said that and not me. Sometimes to hear others talk about how they say I am, I have to go back and make sure it's me they are actually referring to.

    I like to know what other people think, it's one of the best ways to grow and learn. And people in other countries are usually very willing to help out as well. Sometimes the best ideas and thoughts are not my own, but those of someone I listened to and once disagreed with. :)

    Namaste'

    LM

  8. #8
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    Re: Wearying Wait for Federal Aid

    Interesting information from npr.com:

    FEMA Trailers Draw 'NIMBY' Reaction

    FEMA has trailers for New Orleans residents displaced by Hurricane Katrina. And many evacuees are desperate to move into them. But many neighborhoods are offering a familiar response: "Not in my backyard."

  9. #9
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    Re: Wearying Wait for Federal Aid

    Quote Originally Posted by RegulationE
    Interesting information from npr.com:

    FEMA Trailers Draw 'NIMBY' Reaction

    FEMA has trailers for New Orleans residents displaced by Hurricane Katrina. And many evacuees are desperate to move into them. But many neighborhoods are offering a familiar response: "Not in my backyard."
    Which article Reg?

    LM

  10. #10
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    Re: Wearying Wait for Federal Aid

    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/s...toryId=5038696

    What I posted was all you can read....the story is an adiuo file.

  11. #11
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    Re: Wearying Wait for Federal Aid

    Quote Originally Posted by RegulationE
    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/s...toryId=5038696

    What I posted was all you can read....the story is an adiuo file.
    Oh, ok, I'll listen to it on the other computer. I haven't replaced the sound card on this one yet. (I haven't been in the mood to open it up and do it.)

    Thanks

    LM

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