In December, the City Council of New Orleans gave the Housing and Development Authority of New Orleans (HANO) the go ahead to tear down 4600 public housing apartments and replace then with 744 units. There are an estimated 12,000 homeless living in NOLA, an increase of 6,000 from pre-Katrina numbers. Developers will be adding 1,000 market rate apartments which will price out at $400,000 and up. The public housing story topped a very short news cycle in the national media for about 24 hours. Meanwhile, the problems facing middle class neighborhoods, black and white, have been all but ignored.
Trying to Go Home to Lakeview
Roots singer and songwriter, Kim Carson, is one of 200,000 people who have not been able to return to New Orleans since the floodwaters of Katrina delivered an almost fatal body blow to Louisiana in late August 2005. In Carson’s case, a scam contractor and the demands of trying to make a living as a touring musician have taken a huge emotional toll and delayed reconstruction of her Lakeview property by over two years and counting. Along with journalist keith harmon snow, we visited with Carson in October 2007—the lower level windows had still not been replaced in her combination home and rental apartment—a structure located in what was once a solid middle class, mainly white neighborhood.
Stories like Carson’s tell a different story than that of the displaced public housing residents, but it is a story which demonstrates how a disaster like Katrina becomes the great leveler. For residents of New Orleans, whether you are waiting for Road Home money to repair your underinsured home in the ninth ward, hoping to gain access to your public housing unit in St. Bernard, or in Carson’s case, an honest contractor to repair your flooded property in Lakeview, you are still trying to go home over two years after disaster struck. No matter how you cut it, rich or poor, you are all refugees in America. Make no mistake about it, when disaster strikes and the wounded lie helpless, hyenas will always gather for the kill.
Kim Carson is a strong, confident, pretty southern woman who looks you straight in the eye, offering no nonsense, clear-cut, honest talk. This is not a woman who is a push-over, or who has to flirt or manipulate to get things done, gain your attention or make a point. Never one to “believe in a fairy godmother or Daddy taking care of me,” Carson told us that it wasn’t Mother Nature that exhausted her, but “people and opportunists” who stymied her recovery efforts. As far as Carson is concerned, her home insurance was adequate, and the city did its job and cleaned up the mess on the street. Finding an honest contractor was another story.