Playing Rubik's Cube with public housing residents
Last week I had a delightful lunch with several friends at Willie Mae's Scotch House in the Treme -- three of us "made" our June birthdays around the same time, as they say in the local parlance, and so we decided to make a group celebration of it. And there was much there worth celebrating -- the stacks of buttered bread that came whether or not you'd ordered anything, the unsweetened iced tea (sweet tea being a southern and not a New Orleans thing), and the smothered pork, smothered veal and smothered chicken to name a few things. But probably the most welcome sight was the "Open" sign on front of the once-flooded-but-now-rebuilt corner restaurant. (I wrote about the rebuilding here.)
Across Orleans Ave., there were less welcoming signs on every door of the still-boarded up Lafitte housing projects. Granted, the blue notices that were duct-taped to the doors were probably intended for the activists who last year fought to have the units reopened, and not necessarily for the residents who once lived there, but still, they bore a decidedly hostile tone:
NOTICE: You are hereby notified that you must leave HANO (Housing Authority of New Orleans) property immediately and not return to the site without prior authorization from HANO. As to any persons what have or do enter the site without prior authorization from HANO, HANO will pursue all legal remedies it has, including but not limited to 1) summoning law enforcement officials to have such persons removed and/or arrested as a trespasser 2) seeking a restraining order/injunction against such persons...3)seeking an award of money for any damages against them...and 4)if such persons claim to have any right of occupancy, taking actioan to terminate any housing assistance they are receiving, and/or lease you may have with, from, or through HANO."
This has a remarkably different tone than that which was reported from HANO in a recent Times Picayune story about how the housing authority is now trying to track down some of its former residents and move them into different properties :
"HANO is especially interested in tracking down residents who before Katrina called the Iberville, B.W. Cooper and Guste complexes home. Those complexes are open and welcoming back residents who were forced from the city after the city flooded.
The Guste complex in Central City has 82 new homes that feature central air conditioning, carpeting and, in many cases, balconies.
HANO has asked "any and all" families who lived in its complexes before Katrina to call (800) 955-2232 and provide a current telephone number or address. Those calling after business hours may leave a recorded message.
HANO had 5,100 families living in traditional complexes before Katrina. More than 1,400 families have returned, and HANO said it has nearly 400 vacant apartments ready for occupancy. Former residents get first crack at them."
First crack -- but only if you never tried to move back into your old apartment, that is ...
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