As New Storms Rise, NAACP Calls For Continued Focus & Support For Those Still Rebuilding Lives Three Years After KatrinaAugust 28, 2008
As Tropical Storm Gustav cuts a swath of death and destruction across the eastern Caribbean and emergency planners prepare for its potential actions along the Gulf Coast of the U.S., the NAACP reminds the nation not to forget those who have still not fully recovered from the devastation of Hurricanes Rita and Katrina. Katrina slammed into Louisiana and surrounding water-logged states three years ago today, creating the country’s worse natural disaster in recent memory and exposing a woefully inadequate response by federal and local authorities.
Louisiana NAACP State Conference President Ernest Johnson reports three years after Katrina, large portions of New Orleans remain in shambles and some 100,000 of the city’s previous residents are scattered across the state and nation.
“The City of New Orleans is still destroyed,” Johnson said. “We have great concerns that neighborhoods are still not being rebuilt. Infrastructure repairs and development are needed. A lot of work has gone undone for far too long. We urge and encourage all officials to do what they can within their power to provide the benefits required to help rebuild this state.”
Federal recovery dollars never flowed into Louisiana as promised, Johnson said, adding that many displaced Gulf Coast residents would have returned home if the necessary support they needed had been made available in a timely fashion.
Mississippi NAACP State Conference President Derrick Johnson reports that progress remains troublingly slow there as well. “After three years, it is unfortunate that Mississippians are under the threat of another hurricane when many have not recovered from Katrina,” he said. “Much of the recovery has been hampered by the governor of Mississippi’s decisions to not reinvest in people.”
Only 13 percent of $5.1 billion in federal Community Development Block Grant funds have been spent to assist working class Mississippians in their recovery, compared to 53 percent spent in Louisiana. Much of the recovery funds have gone to enrich private companies, Johnson said. For instance $600 million in much needed resources was diverted to the redevelopment of the Port of Gulfport which sustained $15 million in damage.
In Alabama, a complete recovery looms. “We still have along way to go,” said Alabama NAACP State Conference President Edward Vaughn. “That’s because we were not given the resources to get what we need done. Insurance companies still have not paid due to ongoing litigation.”
To better respond in a crisis, the Alabama NAACP State Conference has developed trained emergency response teams and established the only ARC-certified shelter located in a predominately African American community in the state, located in Pritchard, a suburb of Mobile. The response teams are often the first to deliver food, water, portable TVs, radios, tarps and other assistance to those stranded in rural areas where larger relief agencies tend not to go.
NAACP branches and state conferences continue to work hard to secure proper health care, legal representation, education and housing in the Gulf Coast. Following the storms of three years ago, the NAACP arrived on the stricken Gulf Coast before the federal government and has been responsive ever since.
The Louisiana NAACP continues to work with the Louisiana Housing Finance Agency to provide affordable housing opportunities to the displaced. The NAACP has also partnered with Habitat for Humanity to assist in the construction of new homes in the region.
Via a partnership with the American Red Cross, hundreds of NAACP members have completed training as certified disaster relief volunteers in their communities. Those volunteers have been activated repeatedly in the last three years for less severe incidents.
As Gustav approaches, the American Red Cross is preparing for significant operations on the Gulf Coast concentrating efforts in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.
The American Red Cross Safe and Well website allows those directly affected by a disaster to let loved ones know of their well-being. Residents of affected areas are encouraged to take advantage of the website by posting information prior to an evacuation. The Safe and Well site is accessible at: www.RedCross.org or www.SafeandWell.org. Those that do not have internet access can call 1-800-RED-CROSS (1-800-733-2767) to register. (Follow the prompts for disaster information.)
Founded in 1909, the NAACP is the nation's oldest and largest civil rights organization. Its members throughout the United States and the world are the premier advocates for civil rights in their communities, conducting voter mobilization and monitoring equal opportunity in the public and private sectors.
Media Contact: Richard J. McIntire (410) 580-5787