Walking to New Orleans II: Guest Post From Slate

Oct 16, 2006 by

A new Katrina Refrigerator post here. Its title is Walking to New Orleans.

This is Walking to New Orleans II.

Last night, while my grandson and I were playing a game, my husband and daughter were sitting in the front room watching TV and talking. The rest of the story comes from my husband as I didn’t know about it until today.

They heard a knock on the door. My husband opened it to find a 60-ish, emaciated, black woman standing there. She asked him if he could ask his wife to make her a sandwich. She had walked and walked to get to our neighborhood because she was so hungry, but found the church (probably the one up on the corner of Rampart and St. Anthony) closed. She was clearly unaccustomed to knocking on random doors in search of food, and according to my husband, clearly in need of the food. She didn’t look like a substance abuser, just a desperate, very poor, very hungry woman. My husband packed her a sack lunch with a sandwich, some chips, some peanut butter crackers, whatever he could find in our kitchen and gave it to her. When he gave it to her he said she was crying and then she disappeared into the night.

There are so few services here that we couldn’t think this morning of where we could have sent her and we’re going to look into putting a list together of shelters, etc. so that we will have that information for someone who needs it.

As unaccustomed as she was to knocking on random doors in order to eat, we are also unaccustomed to having our door knocked on for that reason. It is shocking to us. I wish we knew who she was, where she was. Maybe we could help her in some other way than just a sandwich and some chips if we knew that, but the whole thing transpired fast and my husband, in his shock, didn’t get any information from her. How many others like her are there out there?

For sure they’re “out there”—-not in an apartment.

There was help for the very poor right after Katrina, but now so many services are just not up and running, and there are grants for homeowners coming through, but this city has been a city of renters for a long, long time. There has been no help at all for renters (Section 8 aside, but that’s another story). We regular Joe’s in the middle are at the mercy of “the market.” There is no chance for a woman like her to find an affordable apartment as rents have doubled in many cases, and the number of apartments available has declined.

Yesterday’s Times Picayune had an article on rising rents. While I understand that some landlords have extraordinary refurbishment expenses, there are others out there who clearly raised the rent to a number that would be close to what the Section 8 voucher amount is, even though the apartment would have rented for half that much last year, or certainly the year before Katrina.

Businesses can’t get workers, workers can’t find affordable housing. Without the workers there is no business—-who’s not GETTING this? It seems so obvious.

No one is saying that landlords should give away their rentals free, (there is a story in the article of one landlord who waived the deposit—that’s fabulous! What a novel idea!) but as one woman in the article said, who was now making $500 more a month than she was pre-K, she thought she could do better and fears she “missed the market.” C’mon! You’re already making more than you were before so what are you griping about? The rest of us are paying you all the money we have to keep a roof over our heads. And Entergy is raping us for the rest of our paycheck. Throw in paid utilities and maybe your apartment would be worth it.

I fear that if something isn’t done to cap rents in this city, that our labor issues will only get worse, and more people will leave, especially those who work in the service industry. The tourism and convention people need to get involved in this or they’re gonna tout our culture and music and party town only to have the conventioneers find that they hafta make their own hurricane at Pat O’s and bring their own pots to make red beans. There won’t be anyone here to make it for them. The bartenders and cooks won’t be able to find an apartment.

The woman who knocked on our door last night might be a harbinger of things to come if we don’t get services together, figure out what HANO is thinking, and get some rent controls in here.

None of that makes you think? Okay, how about this: What if that woman was YOUR mother?

NOLA Slate

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