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East New Orleans, St. Bernard Parish are Katrina's forgotten children

Katrina-StBernardWhen one travels from St. Bernard through the Lower 9th Ward certain facts become abundantly clear.   New Streets have been constructed, bicycle paths incorporated, new curbing poured, and attractive neutral ground signs erected. 

Along North Claiborne Avenue we now have a very nice piece of art near Caffin Avenue and the neutral ground there is presently under construction.  It appears that about seven fountains with landscaping and sidewalks are in the works. 

 

These improvements are welcomed, but the question is “WHY?”  A great amount of money is being spent on infrastructure…but there are very few people living there?  Houses are in deplorable condition. 

Although the Lower 9th Ward became the poster child for Hurricane Katrina, very little has been done to return the residents to their community.   Granted Brad Pitt’s “Make it Right Foundation” has performed some interesting work in an effort to return residents to their neighborhood, but little else has been achieved. 

There are no grocery stores, drug stores, police stations, fire stations, or medical facilities…nothing!!!  There appears to be only one school.  These people are living on the frontier with few public services.  Is there any wonder why so few have returned?  

What happened to all of the recovery plans? What happened to the Road Home money?   Did these people not get any?  If not, why not?  If so, where did it go? Less not forget that “The Storm” occurred nearly seven years ago.    There has been plenty of time to rebuild, if that was the intention. 

Taking all of this into consideration, fertile minds start pondering the possibilities of a conspiracy.  What… in New Orleans?  Louisiana?  Certainly not!  Tell me it ain’t so! 

However, one cannot help but believe that someone somewhere has “A Plan” for this area that does not involve the original occupants. Why else the expenditures?   It is as if there is a concerted effort to deprive them of every opportunity to return while encouraging them to become comfortable elsewhere.  It seems they are being “waited out.” 

            The situation in the Lower 9th Ward provides the most egregious example of neglect.  But others persist as well.   The bottom line is that the region most destroyed by Hurricane Katrina: Lower 9th Ward, St. Bernard Parish, and New Orleans East have become forgotten children.  Although St. Bernard has made spectacular progress, this is more attributable to the people and less to government.  Even so, only about 54% of its pre- Katrina population returned. 

            The economic impact of a lack of jobs, businesses, and services has a depressing impact.  The cost of government has gone up to address recovery needs, but now those financial burdens are expected to be paid for by a reduced number local of residents.  As if all is back to normal. 

by Ron Chapman

            What happened to all the recovery plans?  Where did all the money go?  More important, has the State of Louisiana turned its back on the region assuming that all is well and everyone has been made whole?   Certainly, those of us who live here know otherwise.  

            Southeast Louisiana is still digging out, and it leaves a bitter taste when those in our own family…Louisiana…turn a blind eye to our plight.  The dire conditions in the Lower 9th Ward provide the extreme example of a much larger problem. 

             All is not back to normal and many are wondering why.

(Image: St. Bernard Parish and view towards New Orleans, weeks post-Katrina)

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