Talk about voiceless. I can't imagine being in the position these people are in!
How difficult - to tell anyone who will listen that things are BAD and nothing happens. Absolutely nothing happens.
This is where I'm going to get pissed at all of the volunteers. I write these letters for everyone to send. I don't write them for MY health. I write them for the survivors! We are their voices - so speak up! Shout! Use the letters I write - send them to the people I suggest, plus any YOU think of. It's the only way things will continue to progress.
It takes and extreme action to produce a moderate reaction within our society. So start screaming!
Trailer residents complain of cold
Many can't afford propane, activist says
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
By Ed Anderson
BATON ROUGE -- Hurricane victims, living in FEMA trailers near Baton Rouge for more than 17 months, told a legislative panel Monday that some residents are going without heat in near-freezing weather because they cannot afford to pay for propane for their temporary homes.
Wilbert Ross, president of Katrina Rebirth Promise Land Inc., an organization that represents about 3,500 residents dislodged from their New Orleans homes by Hurricane Katrina, said the federal government last April cut off a food service and vouchers to pay for propane to heat the trailers, cook food and heat water for people living in the Renaissance Village trailer park in Baker.
With temperatures that have dipped below freezing recently and are expected to hover in the 30s this week, Ross said, the state should help pay for the propane. On average, he said, the 3,500 people his organization represents buy two propane tanks about twice a month at a cost of $20 per tank.
He said that when residents moved into the trailers after the hurricane they were told shelter, propane and food would be provided. Now, Ross said, residents at times have to make a choice between spending money on heat, food or baby supplies like diapers.
Speaking to members of the Joint Senate Committee on Local and Municipal Affairs and the House Committee on Municipal, Parochial and Cultural Affairs, Ross said the propane problem is especially acute for elderly people on fixed incomes, single parents who cannot leave their children alone to work, those who have exhausted other benefits and residents who want to work but do not have the transportation to jobs.
He said church and community groups have pitched in to help, and park residents collect and recycle cans to buy propane.
"We have got 10,000 needs and not enough money to address those needs," said Andy Kopplin, executive director of the Louisiana Recovery Authority, the state's chief hurricane recovery oversight agency. The authority has allocated about $15 million to the Louisiana Family Recovery Corps to provide social services and mental health counseling for hurricane victims. He said he will talk to corps Chief Executive Officer Raymond Jetson about the food and heating problems.
"These are survival issues as opposed to long-term construction or planning issues," Kopplin said. He told residents of Renaissance Village that much of the grant money has stiff criteria that prevents using it on propane.
Jetson told the panel that besides the LRA's allocation his agency has received $32 million from the federal Temporary Aid for Needy Families program that can be used only for people who meet certain income levels with children.
Of the money the corps has received, Jetson said, about $3.5 million is not restricted. He said his office has used some money to help pay for propane and feeding programs for residents of the village. "We have less than $2 million left and some of that is earmarked for other needs," he said.
Jetson said last month that he would seek $100 million from the state to finance the programs his office wants for resettling and caring for displaced citizens.
Jetson estimated about 15,000 families living in trailers at about 400 sites around the state could benefit from the program.
Politicians pitch in
"If I could get out of here today without leaving someone behind, I'd get out of here running," said Ross, a dishwasher and former Lower 9th Ward resident. "Even if we had a portable kitchen (to cook meals) that would be better."
"If it is not morally wrong, it is on the verge of criminality if you let our citizens suffer when they were put in a condition that they cannot control," said Sen. Heulette "Clo" Fontenot, R-Livingston, to LRA and other state officials in the audience.
"It will be shame on us if people are freezing and going hungry," said Sen. Cleo Fields, D-Baton Rouge, chairman of the Senate panel. Sen. Diana Bajoie, D-New Orleans, pointed out to Kopplin and others that the federal government is still paying for housing and utilities for hurricane victims, and the least it can do is pay for to heat the trailers of displaced citizens.
Sen. Tom Schedler, R-Slidell, said he was going to donate $1,000 from his campaign fund to buy propane for some residents, and Bajoie said she will kick in $300 to $400 to buy baby food and diapers for families who are struggling. Bajoie said she will make telephone calls to others to solicit contributions.
"That is the most deplorable thing I have heard," Schedler told Ross of the conditions he described. Schedler said that government should find a way "to heat these trailers and feed these people" or "private corporate America" should do so with donations.
"You are going to embarrass FEMA and HUD (the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development)," he said. "If you have to embarrass people into it, so be it. We as a state are sitting on $2.5 billion (in past and projected surpluses); we should be embarrassed."
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Ed Anderson cane be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.