One aspect of hurricane Katrina that doesn't get much airplay is the way communities in Louisiana have banded together to help the evacuees. Every city, and most towns, in the state are housing evacuees. The major media outlets don't mention this much, probably because it's "known", and because it's easier to do the same story from a single location with lots of people (i.e. Houston) than it is to tell about the effect the evacuees are having on the various communities within their own state.
Monroe's shelter was cited by Governor Blanco as a model for the rest of the country. State Farm (*hiss* *spit*) pulled out of Monroe over a year ago. They left behind a couple of buildings that they eventually gave to the state. One was planned as a campus for a local community college, but is now the Community Residential Center, housing Katrina evacuees. It has its own post office, it's own laundry facilities, and a cafeteria. Being an office building, it also has offices that have been transformed into private, or semi-private, rooms.
Alana, my wife, told me that they are expecting another 900 evacuees sometime today. Most of these folk are escaping ahead of hurricane Rita. A special needs shelter is being set up in the Monroe Civic Center.
A number of people at work are peeved at the owners of the Civic Center. The owners refused to clear their schedule of events (though some recent events were cancelled). This has led people to accuse them of greed, suggesting that Monroe could hold more evacuees than it is. I haven't been able to get an official number, but I believe it's around 3,000, possibly more.
There's a convention center in West Monroe that's not being used. Some West Monroe residents accuse Monroe, FEMA, and the Red Cross of playing politics to keep the evacuees in Monroe. The simple fact is that West Monroe does not have public transit (the city has been studiously avoiding public transit for years). Many of the evacuees don't have a car. How are they to get around West Monroe, on foot?
For the most part the evacuees have been warmly accepted into the community. They are causing a strain, though. The local Medicaid office now has to process applications for the local parishes as well as for the people from the evacuated parishes. The local job market is flooded with potential employees. Apartment vacancy rates have plunged. It will be interesting to see how the communities of one of the country's poorest states cope with this situation.
The apartment complex we live in had a run-in with Entergy, the power company. They needed to get the power turned on in a couple of vacant apartments so that they could rent out the apartments to evacuees. Entergy said it would be a couple of weeks before they could turn on the power, as they were too busy with higher priority work due to the hurricane. Last week, Entergy contacted our apartment manager asking if they had rooms to rent. Entergy needed a place for their out-of-town crews to stay. The manager said something like, "Oh, you mean the apartments that you won't turn on the power to?" Needless to say, Entergy had to go looking for another set of apartments...
4 Good Years
1 year ago