What Gulf Coast Congressman Gene Taylor wanted the Easter Bunny to bring him.
South Mississippi Living 4/07

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Young Mother in FEMA Trailer Yearns for Home

by Ana Maria

Through stinging, burning eyes I listened as WLOX-TV 13 filmed a conversation between a young single mother of two living in a FEMA trailer and John Eaves, Mississippi’s Democratic Gubernatorial Nominee. Rare is the interview with FEMA residents.

The Bush Administration had created a FEMA policy that deliberately prevented press and FEMA residents from talking with each other. Bush’s policy violated our First Amendment Freedom of the Press that our nation’s founders put into our U.S. Constitution.

A year ago, FEMA representative James Stark spoke with The Advocate, the Baton Rouge, Louisiana, paper that had published the article on Bush's FEMA tearing up our Constitutional right to a free press. Stark said, “we shouldn't be trying to muzzle the press.” No joke. This isn’t communist Russia. For clarification, this is the United States of America. Got it?! We value freedom even if the occupants of the White House do not.

Keisha is in her late 20s and a single mother of a daughter and son. Katrina destroyed her car and her rental home. Because childcare has been non-existent since the storm, she has been unable to go to work. Her youngest will go to pre-school later this month. On his first day of school, Keisha will start her new job at Popeyes Fried Chicken fast food restaurant. [The best onion rings on the planet, I’m telling ya.] Popeyes is a long way from Keisha's formaldehyde-filled trailer to walk in the scorching heat and humidity that is typical for August and September here in Bay St. Louis, Miss.

When we drove up to the FEMA park, I was absolutely astonished. I had driven by the place a bazillion times since I arrived here in my hometown to visit my family in March. The trailer park sits behind a large white fence, which hides it from view, and hide it well the fence did. I still cannot believe that what must have been at least a hundred FEMA trailers on gravel grounds completely unsuitable for children to play safely or animals to run about or disabled individuals to maneuver around sits behind a fence I’ve seen plenty but never saw through. It’s blocked from view from the street.

We must have been in Keisha’s trailer for a good 20-30 minutes. My eyes burned for hours on end. Keisha said that she has gone to the emergency room in the hospital across the street four times for depression and migraines. All she years for are the same things all of us in the Katrina-ravaged region want: to take care of family, to go home, to return to pre-Katrina life.

John Eaves listened intently to the young woman as she eagerly told her story in hopes that somehow she can obtain relief from the extremely small FEMA trailer. Whether talking with Keisha or the other trailer residents, he mentioned several things that resonated with them and with me.

Referring to them as money changers, Eaves talked of Mississippians being taken advantaged of by Big Insurance, Big Oil, and Big Pharmacy. Clearly a biblical reference which resonates well with many Mississippians, money changers is as good a phrase to use to describe those big industries that revere money over being good corporate citizens and doing right while making a living.

Before the storm, Keisha and her two kids lived with her mother in a two-bedroom home. After Katrina destroyed the house, the owner replaced it with a one-bedroom home. Her mother moved back in, but there is no room for Keisha and her two kids. It’s only a one bedroom place.

How brave this young woman is to talk to total strangers on camera. Fiercely determined to do the best she can for her own children, would that those sitting in the White House shared her sense of valuing children and family.

What will she and her family do come January when Bush’s FEMA kicks them out?

Affordable housing remains unavailable. It’s not that there is an abundance of housing, and it is simply financially unaffordable. There simply isn’t a lot of housing, and what is available is out of financial reach.

One after another story—Keisha’s included—talks of rents doubling since Katrina. Where in these United States can families afford easily to squeeze doubling of their rent or mortgage payments into their household budgets? Whether Manhattan or Montana, the Bay Area of San Francisco or Bay St. Louis, Miss., doubling raw housing costs is no walk in the park. Like big oil at the gas pumps, sure does look like price gouging.

What Keisha and other FEMA trailer residents know as well as every other resident in the Katrina region is that money is the single resource that is scarce around these parts. Making the insurance companies pay up on their wind policies would quickly change the terrain around here.

Houses and apartment complexes would begin to be rebuilt. Businesses and houses of worship would begin construction. Government buildings like jails and schools would break ground.

Jobs would be plentiful. With those jobs would be benefits to help maintain the health of these families.

Forcing the federal government to actually spend the appropriated money here on the ground—Waveland or Pass Christian or Bay St. Louis, Miss., or Slidell or New Orleans, Louisiana—will dramatically alter life in a most positive direction.

And with that, the weariness that is in everyone’s eyes, the heaviness weighing on the collective minds and hearts of those struggling—which includes everyone, and the depression hidden behind our region’s well-known smiling and gracious hospitality will begin to disappear.

As the money changes hands from the federal bureaucrats to the local folks here on the ground and from the insurance companies coffers to the rightful hands of its policy holders, the sunny, cheery, optimistic perspective that life is getting better everyday—a perspective that is as embedded in our American culture as baseball, hot dogs, and apple pie—this perspective will rise and shine as brightly as the beautiful sun shining down upon our humble but beautiful Gulf Coast.

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1 comment:

RightDemocrat said...

I would love to see John Eaves win the Governor's race. And I wish that Gene Taylor could get a promotion to the U.S. Senate.