Friday, June 12, 2009
Nearly 4 years have passed since Katrina struck New Orleans, and the victims are slowly, but surely, melting into an indistinguishable populace of poverty. Sadly, they appear doomed to live as perpetuately internally displaced people.
Despite President Barack Obama's decision to allow residents living in FEMA Trailers to remain in their trailers while the federal government partners with residents to find permanent housing, the Biloxi City Council is preparing to take action to kick these hurricane survivors out of their city. The Biloxi City Council will vote June 16th on an ordinance, backed by the City's community development office, forcing FEMA trailers to be removed from residential zones by August 9th. Housing and human rights advocates have denounced the proposed ordinance as another step in the victimization and marginalization of residents with disabilities, low income, elderly, immigrant, and minority survivors of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita by their elected officials.
Chuck Rogers, a long-time Biloxi resident is currently living in a trailer along Redding Street as he works with Hope Community Development Agency, a community-based nonprofit working to find permanent homes for Katrina survivors, to redesign a new home for his lot. He is eager to move out of his trailer but now fears the city council ordinance will set back his plans to rebuild saying, "I'm just trying to do the best I can to build to the future."
"I think it's important that the city recognizes that everyone has not recovered completely from Katrina and that a number of people are still working on their homes," said Ward 2 Councilman Bill Stallworth, an outspoken critic of the ordinance who also serves as Executive Director of Hope Community Development Agency. "It will be unconscionable for the city to throw its citizens onto the streets."
"Biloxi will run afoul of the federal Fair Housing Act if the trailer occupants it displaces include high numbers of racial minorities, persons with disabilities, or single mothers with children," noted Reilly Morse, an attorney with the Mississippi Center for Justice.