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Finding a Place to Live Is Not Easy

Posted By Nina Sachdev, Mar 19, 2007

Loyola Law School’s “Hurricane Katrina Law Clinic” – volunteers: Brett Bernstein, Nina Sachdev, Monika Saini, Daniel Sharpe

Two years after Katrina, people are still living in their FEMA trailers because their homes are still in shambles. Some are living in trailer parks, but some are living in trailers on their own property or property of their family and friends. Through Loyola Law School’s “Hurricane Katrina Law Clinic,” we are fighting an ordinance in Jefferson Parrish (a suburb south of the Mississippi River) that would force people living in these trailers to move out by March 31 of this year, making most of these people homeless.

The Parish’s view, as we have gathered, is that they think the people living in these trailers have not been looking for another place to live. They think the trailers are a “blight” to the Jefferson Parish community; in other words, that they look bad and should not be there. Jefferson Parish has recently undergone the “white flight” phenomena, with many white folks moving from the city to the suburbs. And, most people living in these trailers are African-American. The parish’s effort to get rid of the trailers soon seems like another way to get rid of working class, African-Americans in the area. A phenomenon that we have seen is occurring throughout New Orleans since Katrina.

So, for the next few days, we are helping the people living in the trailers to write appeals to the Parish office to extend the deadline of their move out to at least August 31, 2007. (The clinic may also take further action.) The law students who were here last week created an appeal letter and formulated questions to ask people. Our task is to contact more people and get as much evidence as we can to show that they have been actively looking for a place to live.

After many phone calls today, we found that everyone we talked to has been looking and waiting for the last two years. Some people owned houses before Katrina and are waiting on money from the government’s “Road Home Program” or insurance companies to help them rebuild. Others have been looking for a place to rent, but rent prices have tripled since the hurricane. Many people also told us about mold, plumbing and rat problems in their trailers. These people would rather not live in the trailers, but where else can they live?

We should also mention that we are working with great attorneys, Davida Finger and Bradley, and an awesome Yale law student, Darryl - who would one day make tons of money on Jeopardy, but is doing international human rights work around the world instead.