FEMA Trailers Arrive

ACORN Community Organizing Personal Writings

New Orleans      Yesterday was a big day for a small reason here on Elysian Fields at the ACORN office. Five months after the storm, finally two FEMA trailers ordered for our staff arrived.

They were slightly different, but both were essentially big, white boxes on wheels. One had a couple of windows more than the other. Each looked like they would sleep between 4 and 6 depending on how scrunchy-up one organized the space. The insides were nicer than the vanilla exteriors. Nice looking wooden cabinets. Microwaves. Big refrigerators. All the comforts of the home that you no longer have.

The crew that set them down was a story themselves. They were being paid $10.00 per day on the promise that after 4 months they would get their big payday. They ferried the trailers in from a lot in Jefferson Parish. They were also paid to set them. Run wires from the fuse box and lay pvc pipe to plumb them to the sewer connection on the ACORN annex. Another guy had the job of building small stairways into the side doors of the trailers. Each pick-up, one from Atlanta and the other from Texas with crews from those cities, Shreveport, and elsewhere, had a small generator to run the power tools right on to the job site. These were essentially traveling construction sharecroppers.

The newspaper has been all bent out of shape. First, they complained about how few trailers were in New Orleans, which is a true point. They didn’t know what to do with the dispute that folks had in many districts about getting locations — some of the white council people — Jackie Clarkson and Jay Batt — from the two formerly whiter districts, resisted the trailers and wanted to dictate their placement. Governor Blanco had to come down to make the peace finally. Now, as the trailers arrive the paper complains about the estimated cost over an 18 month period, which could be past $60,000 for trailer. The point is made that one could rebuild a lot of houses for the cost of a trailer, but in many ways that’s apples and oranges. It’s an equity problem again, not just a math thing. The big whoops of New Orleans keep stumbling on the horns of that dilemma.

We have crews of workers desperate for housing on our clean-out and demonstration program. There are still New Orleans ACORN organizers, Franzella Johnson, the great Lynette, Ms. Quinn, and others who can not come back to work, because they no longer have housing. This could finally make it possible for them to staff up and get back into full fighting shape.

We will put these two FEMA trailers with the Airstreams and have our own small village here helping rebuild the city.

We were all ecstatic!

January 28, 2006