Wednesday, June 20, 2007

There's a country's soul that reads post no bills

Just got back from Louisiana for the second time. A new experience this time. I took my youth group down to the rural areas surrounding New Orleans. It turns out that Louisiana is hot this time of year. The temp was over 100 almost every day. The humidity was unbelievable. Not good for a bunch of Ohioans. On top of all that, we worked outside every day.

This trip was much different than the SBC trip that I took over spring break. A couple of the days were spent in the community of Dulac, LA. Dulac was founded by Houma native americans and French-Cajuns. The cultural diversity is amazing. Nobody speaks English as their first language. Most speak Cajun French or a mixture of Cajun French and a Native American dialect. The first family we worked with needed wood paneling hung in their house and a bathroom painted and finished. I've never seen such obvious and abject poverty. Up until recently, the family had lived with rotting wall paneling in their one room house. They have neither the will nor means to attempt major projects. Most of the homes in the area are small and packed with family members. Many people do not work and a very large portion are illiterate. During hurricane Rita, floodwaters filled most houses with 2-4 feet of water. Most insurance policies will cover hurricane damage but very few will cover flood damage. I can't say that most of these people don't have homeowner's insurance but I highly doubt they could afford it anyway.

The other family that we worked with is headed by a single working mom with several kids. In order to obtain the occupancy permit needed to move back into her house, she had to have the house raised 12ft and placed on stilts. This procedure costs in the area of $25,000. She had been denied funding from several relief agencies including Louisiana's Road Home program. Her husband, unable to cope with the high financial pressure, hung himself from from the newly placed rafter under their raised house. She now has to slowly pay off her debt to the contractors and try to feed her family. Volunteer labor helps out a lot.

I also took the kids down to the 9th ward in New Orleans. As expected, nothing new has been done. Still the same scene of thousand of empty houses. It has become painfully obvious that our government intends to ignore the people of southern Louisiana until the problem goes away and low income neighborhoods and shanty towns on the bayous are left to the mercy of developers who can afford to build raised middle class neighborhoods that will be safe from floodwaters. I really don't know when the term "poor" became synonymous with "worthless". I think I've seen too much to be able to ignore the situation any longer. I hope God will allow me the opportunity to go down there again soon.

No comments: