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Katrina Evacuees to Meet

With a new study suggesting New Orleans could lose as much as 80 percent of its African-American population without major rebuilding, Hurricane Katrina evacuees in the Chicago area will meet Monday at the Heartland Alliance to give input into plans for recontructing Louisiana communities.

A new National Science Foundation study conducted by Brown University suggests the scope of rebuilding and the affordability of rebuilt housing could transform New Orleans, which was almost 70 percent African American before the hurricane, into a majority-white city.

The Louisiana Recovery Authority and FEMA’s Long Term Community Recovery Team are joining with Heartland as well as local organizations in eight other cities outside the Gulf region for meetings to identify priority issues for evacuees, for inclusion in recovery plans that will guide rebuilding.

Heartland has coordinated services to evacuees in the Chicago area, working with several local agencies providing housing assistance for an estimated 2400 evacuees — perhaps half the total of Katrina evacuees in the Chicago area, according to Jim Bennett. Recent figures show that 42 percent of the households being assisted are in permanent housing, and 32 percent in stable temporary housing, he said. The rest may be on month-to-month leases or in hotels while they decide what to do next.

Many evacuees “are having pretty good success at finding jobs,” Bennett said, but Heartland has set up a transitional jobs program for those having trouble.

The Louisiana Recovery Planning Day open house meeting takes place on Monday, January 30, 2 to 4 p.m., at 208 S. LaSalle, suite 1818.

Bringing Music Back to New Orleans

“This train has the disappearing railroad blues.”

With federal funding for Amtrak’s “City of New Orleans” threatened, that line in Steve Goodman’s song about the historic train linking Chicago and New Orleans has a new resonance.

That’s one thing Arlo Guthrie has said he was thinking of when he planned the City of New Orleans “Bring Back the Music” tour, which leaves Chicago on December 6. (It was Guthrie’s 1972 hit with Goodman’s song that prompted Amtrak to revive that name for the train several years later.)

Another thing on his mind was the devastation of the network of small clubs that sustained New Orleans’ culture — and musicians — by Hurricane Katrina.

Amidst a tour marking the 40th anniversary of Guthrie’s legendary “Alice’s Restaurant,” he’s been asking friends throughout the music industry to help with donations of sound equipment and other musical accoutrements to help facilitate the restoration of the musical infrastructure in New Orleans and provide work for displaced musicians.

“When I think of New Orleans, I think of music,” Guthrie said in a public note a few weeks ago. “New Orleans is the city that truly began America’s contribution to the history of music worldwide. When I wonder what they might need in New Orleans to get back on their feet, the stuff that gets ruined under water, I think of all the sound boards, the cables, the lighting, the microphones, the instruments.”

“I am determined to help restore all of those little places and bring the music back as soon as possible,” he said.

Following a benefit concert on Monday, December 5 at the Vic Theater, 3145 N. Sheffield (7 p.m.); Guthrie and a raft of musicians and equipment will depart on the Amtrak City of New Orleans from Union Station on the evening of Tuesday, December 6. Concerts are planned along the way at locations including Kankakee, Champaign-Urbana, Carbondale, and Memphis.

The tour is sponsored by Amtrak, The Guthrie Foundation, Tipitinas Foundation, Gibson Guitar, and MusiCares, the Recording Academy’s safety net of critical assistance for music people in times of need.

Tickets for the Monday performance at the Vic are at, and donations can be made at, said Guthrie publicist Cash Edwards. “The major goal is to provide not just used equipment but new equipment purchased at close to cost from suppliers,” she said.

For more information call Rising Son Records, 772-589-1774, or e-mail “”

Helping Katrina Victims, Facing Cuts

Even as they ramp up efforts to help hurricane victims move beyond survival needs, Cook County anti-poverty agencies are looking at drastic cuts in their federal funding.

Community action agencies coordinated by the Community Economic Development Association in suburban Cook County are uniquely positioned to help victims as they begin to reestablish their lives, offering a range of services including case management, transitional and affordable housing, job training and placement, health and nutrition programs, childcare and senior care, and small business assistance.

Working with evacuees in state shelters in Tinley Park, Madden, and Maywood, CEDA began a $100,000 fund to help people with necessities beyond the food and clothing offered by emergency services — things like toiletries, medicine, and school supplies, said Mark Enenbach of CEDA Cook County.

They’re also providing food vouchers to families sheltering Gulf evacuees in their homes, he said.

As evacuees seek to move beyond shelters and make decisions about their future, FEMA, the Red Cross, and state agencies are increasingly looking to CEDA to “take the ball and run with it,” Enenbach said. “We’re trying to fill in gaps and find some longer-term solutions for these people….We’re going to be involved for the long haul with an awful lot of these families.”

Meanwhile they’re planning for a 50 percent cut in the Community Services Block Grant which the U.S. House passed this spring. If not rescinded in a budget reconciliation process that has been postponed since Hurricane Katrina, the cut will go into effect at the end of the year.

“It would be devastating; it would mean closing centers and laying off staff,” Enenbach said. “This is exactly the wrong time for that kind of thing.”

“Jobs Scams” – Chicago to Gulf Coast?

When Greg LeRoy returns to Chicago to talk about his new book, “The Great American Jobs Scam,” he’ll touch on local subsidies of corporate headquarters and TIFs — as well as the post-disaster reconstruction of Lower Manhattan and the Gulf Coast.

Subtitled “Corporate Tax Dodging and the Myth of Job Creation,” the book looks at the $50 billion which LeRoy estimates U.S. states and cities spend on job subsidies. What are called “business incentives” are really “tax scams,” LeRoy says — too often “paying companies to do what they would have done anyway.”

That may well include President Bush’s proposed Gulf Opportunity Zone.

LeRoy was research director at the Midwest Labor Research Center in Chicago for ten years before founding Good Jobs First, a D.C.-based nonprofit that promotes accountability in economic development spending, in 1998.

Among cases drawn from across the country, the book looks at the $56 million subsidy package given Boeing when the corporation moved its headquarters to Chicago — and consultant Arthur Anderson’s role “cooking up highly improbably ripple effect numbers.” LeRoy says Boeing moved here because “Chicago had what Boeing wanted” in terms of transportation, financial, and cultural infrastructure.

The book also examines the expense to schools and other public services of nearly 900 Tax Increment Finance zones in Illinois, including 135 in the city of Chicago.

Based on their experience watchdogging reconstruction funds for Lower Manhattan after 9/11, Good Jobs First recently joined other groups urging that Gulf Coast aid projects be monitored so low and moderate income people, displaced workers, and small businesses are included in benefits.

In New York City, requirements that HUD funds benefit lower-income residents were waived, and $20 billion in reconstruction funds “fueled gentrification and wage polarization” while slighting reemployment needs of low-income workers, according to a statement from GJF and other groups.

“If 9/11 is the blueprint for New Orleans, woe is the Gulf Coast,” LeRoy commented.

Bush has proposed tax-advantage enterprise zones and emphasized tax breaks to induce companies to return to New Orleans. Such programs “benefit a small number of large companies” but produce little in real economic results, LeRoy said.

He noted that despite calls to address poverty and racial discrimination, the administration has lifted prevailing wage and affirmative action requirements for federal contractors in the region; despite the health and environmental dangers of toxic flooding in New Orleans, environmental regulations for refineries are being lifted.

“While there will be a push from some quarters to address every problem with tax cuts and private deals, we believe the key to economic development is making sure public dollars are spent on public goods — infrastructure, culture, affordable housing, schools, and the like,” GJF and the other groups said in an open letter.

“In the absence of these public goods, tax breaks will not bring jobs back to the region. With them, tax breaks won’t be necessary,” they said.

The groups call for “a rebuilding plan that encourages broad public participation, strict rules targeting benefits to the most vulnerable survivors, and accountability safeguards.” Federal funds should put dislocated workers in good jobs, develop affordable housing, modernize refineries to reduce toxic emissions, and should go not just to”mega-projects” but also to “community-oriented development in which local stakeholders have a real voice.”

LeRoy added that there the administration has said nothing to date about rebuilding marshlands and barrier islands to protect the Gulf Coast from future storms.

One lesson from Lower Manhattan’s reconstruction project is that big players “moved very quickly to lock people out,” LeRoy said.

LeRoy will be speaking and signing his book at a program sponsored by the Illinois AFL-CIO, the Chicago Federation of Labor, and the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability, at DePaul University, 25 E. Jackson, on Tuesday, September 27 at 5:30 p.m. Reservations are requested at 312-332-1480.

Southern Grassroots Responses

See for updates

**September 28, 2005: A network of social justice groups has created the Katrina Information Network, a website featuring grassroots perspectives on Gulf region people’s right to return and rebuilt, accountability and budget issues, disaster profiteering, and racial issues — along with action links on a wide range of issues of community concern and links to grassroots relief efforts.

**September 26, 2005: Peoples Hurricane Fund and National Lawyers Guild file FOIA request with FEMA, Department of Homeland Security, and Lousiana Office of Emergency Preparedness, for names and locations of individuals evacuated from Louisiana (see press release).

“PHRF and NLG plan to disseminate this information in order to ensure transparency from FEMA and other major organizations raising funds and resources in the name of hurricane relief. This information will also be used to facilitate the return of hurricane survivors, and ensure local, grassroots leadership and participation in every phase of rebuilding.”


Lists of Southern Groups

1) Southern Empowerment Project
2) May First/People Link
3) The National Organizers Association

4) Community Labor United – People’s Hurricane Fund (statement and press release)

5) PICO, faith-based community organizations

6) Southern Partners Fund
7) Mississippi Workers’ Center for Human Rights
8 ) Louisiana Environmental Action Network
9) Federation of Southern Cooperatives (press release)
10) Farm Aid/Louisiana Interchurch Conference
11) Southern Mutual Help Association
12) Enterprise Corporation of the Delta
13) The Justice Center
14) Centers for Independent Living
15) Louisiana Welfare Rights Organization
16) NOAH – New Orleans-Houston Employment and Relocation Aid for Musicians Displaced by Hurricane Katrina


1) Southern Empowerment Project
Walter Davis, coordinator. 343 Ellis Avenue, Maryville, Tennessee 37804; 865-984-6500;

A multiracial association of groups challenging racism and social injustice which trains community leaders to become organizers

Website links to community organizations and neighborhood groups in the coastal regions of Louisiana and Mississippi


2) May First/People Link, a progresive technology project has a list of Grassroots/Low-income/People of Color-led Hurricane Katrina relief efforts at

“In the coming months, billions of dollars will likely flood into New Orleans.  This money can either be spent to usher in a “New Deal” for the city, with public investment, creation of stable union jobs, new schools, cultural programs and housing restoration, or the city can be “rebuilt and revitalized” to a shell of its former self, with newer hotels, more casinos, and with chain stores and theme parks replacing the former neighborhoods, cultural centers and corner jazz clubs.

“Long before Katrina, New Orleans was hit by a hurricane of poverty, racism,  disinvestment, deindustrialization and corruption.  Simply the damage from this pre-Katrina  hurricane will take billions to repair.

“Now that the money is flowing in, and the world’s eyes are focused on Katrina, its vital that progressive-minded people take this opportunity to fight for a rebuilding with justice.  New Orleans is a special place, and we need to fight for its rebirth.”


3) The National Organizers Association has a list of grassroots relief efforts at

“Progressive community organizing groups and service providers…are fighting for both short-term and long-term justice for people of color, low-income families, LGBTQ communities, and others that face unique and disproportionate challenges now and in the years to come. While some in the news and those in positions of leadership would like us to see this as simply a ‘natural disaster,’ the groups listed here are standing with individuals who know that there are systemic failures that led to a disaster of this proportion. These institutions were fighting for better housing, transportation, education, job creating, legal services, and more before the hurricane. They are organizing now, and will be organizing in the months and years to come.”


4) The Displaced New Orleans Community Demands Action, Accountability — and Initiates a People’s Hurricane Fund¬itle

STATEMENT: Not until the fifth day of the federal government’s inept and inadequate emergency response to the New Orleans disaster did George Bush even acknowledge it was “unacceptable.” “Unacceptable” doesn’t begin to describe the depth of the neglect, racism and classism shown to the people of New Orleans. The government’s actions and inactions were criminal. New Orleans, a city whose population is almost 70 percent percent black, 40 percent illiterate, and many are poor, was left day after day to drown, to starve and to die of disease and thirst.

The people of New Orleans will not go quietly into the night, scattering across this country to become homeless in countless other cities while federal relief funds are funneled into rebuilding casinos, hotels, chemical plants and the wealthy white districts of New Orleans like the French Quarter and the Garden District. We will not stand idly by while this disaster is used as an opportunity to replace our homes with newly built mansions and condos in a gentrified New Orleans.

Community Labor United (CLU), a coalition of the progressive organizations throughout New Orleans, has brought community members together for eight years to discuss socio-economic issues. We have been communicating with people from The Quality Education as a Civil Right Campaign, the Algebra Project, the Young People’s Project and the Louisiana Research Institute for Community Empowerment….[Money donated to this fund will pay to coordinate activities directed at helping the evacuees in the shelters today, reuniting and rebuilding families, and making sure the reconstruction of New Orleans meets the people’s needs.]

Tax-exempt donations can be made out to: The People’s Hurricane Fund. c/o Vanguard Public Foundation, 383 Rhode Island St., Ste 301, San Francisco, CA 94103


September 6, 4:00 p.m. CST, Reliance Center, Houston, Texas

First Organized Response by Hurricane Evacuees Charge Racism in Government Delay

Press conference to announce plan to save lives and demand role in rebuilding effort

HOUSTON–In the first organized response by hurricane survivors most affected by the aftermath, black leaders of New Orleans community organizations will demand a decision-making role in the short-term care of displaced evacuees and long-term rebuilding of New Orleans. They charge the government with racism for their slow rescue efforts and lack of planning and have initiated a nationwide “people’s campaign,” led by New Orleans residents.

Community Labor United (CLU), a New Orleans coalition of labor and community activists, has put out a call to activists and organizations across the country to help evacuees in their own organized effort to have a say in how, when, and where they will rebuild their lives by creating a New Orleans-based People’s Committee.

The population of New Orleans is 67 percent black and 28 percent of the population lives below the poverty line, reflecting the current demographic of hurricane survivors displaced all over the South.

While the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the White House, and Governor Blanco attempt to regain the public’s trust by evading the question of who’s to blame, a short and long-term plan for New Orleans hurricane survivors has remained in a political vault of silence.

“This is plain, ugly, real racism,” states Curtis Muhammad, CLU Organizing Director. “While some politicians and organizations might skirt around the issue of race, we in New Orleans are not afraid to call it what it is. The moral values of our government is to ‘shoot to kill’ hungry, thirsty black hurricane survivors for trying to live through the aftermath. This is not just immoral?this has turned a natural disaster into a man-made disaster, fueled by racism.”

Leaders of CLU, in alliance with nearly twenty other local organizations and several national organizations will discuss their plan ….

The coalition will announce he formation of the New Orleans People’s Committee composed of hurricane survivors from each of the shelters, which will:

1. Demand a role in reviewing and influencing how resources collected on behalf of the people of New Orleans are allocated.

2. Demand decision-making power in the long-term redevelopment of New Orleans.

The coalition will issue a national call for volunteers to assist with housing, healthcare, education, and legal matters for the duration of the displacement.

Contact Curtis Muhammad at


5) PICO, a national network of faith-based community organizations working to increase access to health care, improve public schools, make neighborhoods safer, build affordable housing, redevelop communities and revitalize democracy. PICO brought New Orleans certy to Washington, D.C. “to speak about ongoing failure to protect families” at the National Press Club on September 12; and brought together Louisiana churches to call for comprehensive family relief legislation.

“The federal government needs to respond to the refugee crisis facing the South by opening thousands of new shelters. Congregations are overwhelmed with the task of sheltering people. We are doing everything we can. PICO is hearing reports of people evacuated from New Orleans being left at the doors of closed public buildings, of thousands of people waiting in line for food. FEMA needs to open up thousands of shelters across the South and do more to help people find food, clothing and temporary places to live before they can return home.

“Resources need to be made available to rebuild New Orleans for all its citizens and to prevent catastrophes like this from happening elsewhere. So many stories have pointed to the failure of federal officials to do all that could have been done to prevent and then respond to this catastrophe. If we treasure everyone’s life we cannot shortchange our public health and homeland security infrastructure.”


6) Southern Partners Fund in Atlanta is a public foundation which nurtures grassroots leaders and supports organizations seeking social, economic, and environmental justice.

The SPF Justice Fund for Katrina Relief and Renewal will provide short-term relief, mid-term assistance, and long-term support for community renewal, particularly providing baseline support to grassroots community organizations located in the affected areas of Louisiana and Mississippi to regain operational capacity.

Contact Joan Garner, 404-758-1983 x 24;


7) Mississippi Workers’ Center for Human Rights, in Greenville, MS, a worker advocacy organization that provides organizing support, training and legal representation for low-wage, non-union workers, has established a hurricane victims relief fund.

Jaribu Hill, executive director, 662-334-1122 or 888-949-9754


8 ) Louisiana Environmental Action Network in Baton Rouge provided airdrops of food, water, and medical supplies to trapped residents in St. Bernard, Plaqumine, and Washington Parishes. In coming weeks and months, LEAN will work to address the toxic cesspool and chemical contamination that will be left behind when the water finally recedes. The group has fought the environmental destruction caused by the petrochemical industry for 20 years.

“At this time, the most needed items are tetanus shots, insulin, IV fluids, as well as financial resources to purchase and transport medical and food assistance directly to victims.”


9) Federation of Southern Cooperatives


September 2, 2005 Contact: Heather Gray  (404) 765-0991
Federation/LAF Establishes Relief Fund For Rural Victims of Katrina


ATLANTA….The Federation has launched a Katrina Relief & Recovery Fund to assist farmers and rural poor people effected by hurricane Katrina. “We are witness to immense tragedies in the rural areas of Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana,” said Ralph Paige. “We now have farmers who have lost all their crops and markets. Many  have lost houses and means of livelihood,” he continued. “We are also expecting some 300 evacuees seeking housing, food and water throughout the region.”

The Federation is partnering with the Cooperative Development Foundation, FARM AID and Oxfam America and others in providing relief to effected rural communities. “The funds will be used for long term relief to help cooperatives rebuild facilities, re-build markets and help with direct emergency assistance in housing, food and water,” said Ralph Paige.

In Alabama we are partnering with the 21rst Century Youth Leadership Project in southwest Alabama where up to 300 displaced people will be temporarily housed the the 21rst Century Training Center.

Contributions for the Federation’s Katrina Relief & Recovery Fund can be sent to the Federation of Southern Cooperatives, 2769 Church Street, East Point, GA 30344. We thank you in advance for you assistance. Please call the Federation’s office  at 404 765 0991 or e-mail at if you have questions and/or would like to assist in this effort.

[Note: The Federation/LAF, now in its 38th year, assists Black family farmers across the South with farm management, debt restructuring, alternative crop suggestions, marketing expertise and a whole range of services to ensure family farm survivability.]

Federation of Southern Cooperatives
2769 Church Street, East Point, GA 30344

10) Farm Aid/Louisiana Interchurch Conference

Federation of Southern Cooperatives, a Farm Aid partner, helped distribute 3,500 pounds of family farm-faised pork products to hurricane victims Sept. 7 through a relief shelter near Selma, Alabama.

“Hundreds of farmers had been pummeled by the storms and that they would need both immediate emergency assistance and longer term help to access other relief programs….[Family farmers are hurting over the loss of] crops and farm animals, destruction of equipment, farm buildings and homes. …While attention is rightly focused on the cities and the destruction there, we know that even though we may not hear about it immediately, rural areas and family farmers also suffer when heavy storms strike….In the northeast section of the state, dairy farmers were in trouble. Hay crops were down and corn nearing harvest was pounded by wind and rain. In some places, whole fields–a farmer’s entire crop–were beaten into the ground and destroyed.

Farm Aid is sending assistance through the Louisiana Interchurch Conference in Baton Rouge, the only farmers advocacy organization in the state, which has 20 years experience with credit counseling and emergency assistance aimed at keeping family farmers on the land.


11) Southern Mutual Help Association in New Iberia, Louisiana

Since it was founded in 1969, Southern Mutual Help Association (SMHA) has helped people develop strong, healthy, prosperous rural communities in Louisiana. Our special focus is with distressed rural communities whose livelihoods are interdependent with our land and waters. We work primarily with agricultural and pervasively poor communities, women and people of color. We help build rural communities through people’s growth in their own empowerment and the just management of resources.

“Louisiana is in the midst of a catastrophe. Not only is New Orleans devastated but so are so many of the surrounding rural communities. Fishers and family farmers already under the stress of international trade agreements, have now lost homes and the very means of creating a livelihood to recover. Many rural small businesses are destroyed. The crops in many areas are gone — cane, citrus, soybeans. The fisheries are destroyed in large areas of Louisiana’s coast. This is a crisis for small farmers, farm workers and fisher families.

“Many agencies and generous souls will be seeing to the needs of all those affected. Southern Mutual Help Association, Inc. (SMHA) knows, though, from our lengthy recovery from hurricane Andrew in August of 1992, that the rural areas we serve are last in line and receive the least. SMHA has created a special Rural Recovery Fund to provide desparately needed aid to the rural poor affected by Hurricane Katrina.”

Contact Lorna Bourg, 337-367-3277;


12) Enterprise Corporation of the Delta, Jackson, Mississippi

ECD is a private, nonprofit community development financial institution (CDFI), that provides commercial financing, mortgage loans and technical assistance to support businesses, entrepreneurs, home buyers and community development projects. ECD’s mission is to strengthen communities, build assets and improve lives of people in economically distressed areas of Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi.

ECD Hurricane Katrina Relief Fund

Initially, donated funds will be routed to community partners who are providing food, clothing and shelter for those in Louisiana and Mississippi who were displaced by the storm.

As these basic needs lessen, funds will support payment deferrals, provide down payment assistance, establish loss reserves, and otherwise extend a bridge to those recovering from this tragedy. In this role, ECD/HOPE will build on twelve years of experience in strengthening distressed areas to help residents rebuild their lives, homes, businesses and communities.


13) The Justice Center of New Orleans

Provides representation to indigent defendants across the Deep South. They are trying to set up temporary shop in Houston.

“Many of our clients have trial dates and post-conviction filing deadlines pending and we must be able to resume work as quickly as possible in order to protect their interests. In addition, our staff, who have dedicated themselves to serving the indigent community for many years, now find themselves in need of assistance.”


14) Centers for Independent Living

The LIFE of Central Mississippi center in Biloxi, Mississippi was completely destroyed, the New Orleans center gravely damaged. The centers in Shreveport, Baton Rouse, and Lake Charles are assisting evacuees and is in need of wheelchairs, hospital beds, adult diapers, bed pads, catheters and other supplies.


15) Louisiana Welfare Rights Organization, New Orleans

One of the oldest welfare rights organizations in the nation, provides job training and low-income apartments along with advocacy and other services. The Direct Action Welfare Group of West Virginia (304) 347-9222) is collecting donations on LWRO’s behalf to help low-income families in New Orleans.


16) NOAH – New Orleans- Houston Employment and Relocation Aid for Musicians Displaced by Hurricane Katrina

“Everyone knows that a huge part of New Orleans’ culture is its music. But how can this be preserved so that it will be ready when the city rebuilds? The project is named: SHONOF (pronounced “sho’nuff”): Safe Harbor for Our New Orleans Friends).

Primary goals are:

1. To contact New Orleans musicians, wherever they are, and let them know there is a support group in Houston ready to help them, provide housing, get gigs, etc.

2. To line up apartments, rooms, etc. for these people to live in until they can get on their feet.

3. To organize an instrument clearing house whereby the musicians can get access to needed instruments in order to perform and make a living.

4. To urge local venues–clubs, restaurants, hotels, etc.–to expand their use of live musicians.

5. To organize and hold benefit concerts featuring the New Orleans musicians, supplemented by the best of Houston musicians, to raise money to help the musicians and the project.

6. To share their current gigs with the New Orleans musicians, either by adding a player or two to their performing group or by relinquishing an entire gig.”

Contact Gigi Hill, 713-503-3518;

Local efforts for Katrina survivors

September 26:

1) MacArthur Foundation announces support for affordable housing in Gulf region
2) Helpline for displaced Katrina victims

September 9:

1) Donors Forum information clearinghouse
2) Heartland Alliance designated by city
3) Fund for women and children
4) Grassroots charities
5) Myopic Books fundraiser
6) Public Square’s Cafe Society discussion groups: Judging Relief & Repair
7) Local Nonprofits Offer Specialized Services
8 ) Missing stories from Katrina coverage
9) NOLA community groups demand accountability on rebuilding


September 26

1) (9-15-05) The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation will award grants to $1 million and make $5 million of capital available to support reconstruction in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. The funds will be used primarily to support the development of permanent affordable housing for low-income people in Louisiana and Mississippi.

Contact: Jennifer Humke, 312-726-8000

2) Displaced victims of Hurricane Katrina can call HelpLink at 1-800-725-5314 for up-to-date information and referral to social services in the six county Metropolitan Chicago area.

Callers receive free, confidential referrals to ancies where they can find counseling, employment services, and housing information from a database of more than 4,400 listings. Calls are answered in both English and Spanish, Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Helplink is a service of Community Resource Network.

Contact: Janice Hurtado, 312-491-7823;


September 9:

1)The Donors Forum of Chicago is serving as an information clearinghouse about Hurricane Katrina relief efforts; details and frequent updates at

More info: 312-578-0090


2) Heartland to Provide Assistance, Relocation to Survivors of Katrina

The City of Chicago has designated Chicago-based Heartland Alliance for Human Needs & Human Rights as the city’s coordinator for Katrina survivors who want to relocate to Chicago.

Founded in 1888, Heartland Alliance has more than a century of experience helping displaced people find stability and rebuild their lives. Through contributions made to Heartland’s Katrina Survivors Relief Fund, Heartland will provide material assistance to survivors relocating to Chicago, direct assistance to survivors at the Houston Astrodome and other Texas shelters via Heartland’s Texas partner, the Houston YMCA, material assistance to elderly shelters in Lousiana in collaboration with the Louisiana Departmentt of Aging, and support for mental health counseling to survivors and their families.

* Heartland, in conjunction with the Chicago Department on Aging, is partnering with Area 14 Department of Aging in Louisiana to ensure the special needs of seniors are met. We’ve already supplied blankets to 100 elderly individuals currently living in shelters.

* Heartland has agreed, at the request of the Chicago Department of Human Services, to coordinate all Chicago offers to provide housing and shelter to individuals relocating here from the gulf coast.

* Heartland has offered to send a team to provide assistance where needed.

* Heartland has offered to be a part of a national network provider on relocation and resettlement services to survivors of Hurricane Katrina.

For more: 312-660-1314


3) The Chicago Katrina Relief Fund for Women and Children is being established by the African American Leadership Council of the Chicago Foundation for Women and the Sistuh Fund Giving Circle, to accommodate the special needs of the thousands of women expected to relocate to Chicago as a result of the Hurricane Katrina tragedy.

PRESS CONFERENCE: Friday, September 9, 12 noon, Chicago Foundation for Women, 1 East Wacker Suite 1620; 312-836-0126


4) Grassroots Charities Need Your Help
The Nation, September 7, 2005

A list of grassroots charities that will “make sure the region’s low-income and working people have a voice in their future”


5) Myopic Books, 1564 N. Milwaukee, is sponsoring a fundraiser for homeless employees of I Can Learn, an educational design team headquartered in New Orleans with an office in Wicker Park. The event features live music, refreshments, and a raffle; it’s Thursday, September 15 at 7 p.m. Contact 773-862-4882.


6) Public Square’s Cafe Society discussion groups: Judging Relief & Repair

In the days since hurricane Katrina slammed the nation’s gulf coast, we have been riveted by images of destruction, suffering and chaos in the Big Easy. Almost before the rains and wind had subsided, these images have prompted angry denunciations of official bungling and outright indifference as the federal and state governments have scrambled to respond to this tragedy.

As the chorus of criticism has mounted, one focus has been the race and class of those left behind to face the violence of the hurricane itself, the collapse of the city and the struggle to survive while waiting indefinitely to be evacuated. Many have suggested that the sluggishness of the government response was motivated, at least in part, by lack of concern for this already marginalized segment of our society.

Did the race and economic status of the victims of hurricane Katrina play a role in the nature of the government response? Have the images and labels used by the media worked to perpetuate a racist lens through which we are forced to understand this event? Is this really an issue of class and not at all about race?

Come to a Cafe Society near you to discuss these and other questions about Hurricane Katrina.

Cafe Society Locations
Tuesday, September 13, 7:30-8:30 p.m., Intelligentsia Coffee, 3123 N. Broadway
Wednesday, September 14, 7-8 p.m., Pause, 1107 W. Berwyn
Thursday, September 15, 7-8 p.m., Cafe Mestizo, 2123 S. Ashland (Spanish language); Caffe De Luca, 1721 N. Damen; Valois, 1518 East 53rd
Friday, September 16, 5-6 p.m., Ron’s Barber Shop, 6041 W. North, Oak Park


7) Local Nonprofits Offer Specialized Services

HelpLink is offering information and referrals to social services in the six-county metropolitan Chicago area for displaced victims of Hurricane Katrina. HelpLink (1-800-725-5314) is a service of the Community Resource Network which provides referrals to agencies offering counseling, employment services, and housing assistance.

AIDSCare has been requested by HUD to provide housing for Hurricane Katrina victims who may or may not be impacted by HIV/AIDS. AIDSCare is one of the largest providers of housing for people living with HIV/AIDS in Illinois. For more: Ellyn Harris, 773-359-0111;

SGA-Youth and Family Services is making counseling services for displaced youth available at local schools and in temporary shelters in the Chicago are, and on a walk-in basis at Inner City Youth Foundation, 4500 S. Michigan, and at SGA’s office, 11 E. Adams Suite 1500. Children may experience symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, separation anxiety, and other anxiety disorders triggered by the crisis. SGA-Youth and Family Services is the leading provider of mental health services for homeless and traumatized youth and families in Chicago. For more: Jo Thompson, 312-447-4325;

Genesis House is offering shelter, food, and clothing to women who were made homeless by Hurricane Katrina, and the organization is extending its services to women with a history of prostitution who have been displaced by the storm. For more: Lauren Holzman, 773-533-5600;

A portion of the proceeds will go to victims of Hurricane Katrina when the Wooten Choral Ensemble performs at the Beverly Art Center, 2407 W. 111th, on Sunday, September 11, at 4 p.m. The program of American folk songs, Negro Spirituals, and popular and gospel songs is offered in commemoration of the 9/11 tragedy and the ongoing struggle for freedom and peace. Founded in 1949 and based at Beth Eden Baptist Church, 1121 S. Loomis, the Wooten Choral Ensemble is the oldest community choir in the nation. For more: Grace Kuikman, 773-445-3838;


8 ) Missing Stories from Katrina Coverage

Youth Media Council, September 7, 2005

1. Free-for-all “evacuation” left poor people behind.

Though the storm was predicted, when Governor Blanco ordered the evacuation of New Orleans there was no plan and no coordinated mechanisms to ensure swift, effective evacuation.  The result – those with cars or money to pay $200 or more for cabs were able to flee. Roughly 38% of the total population of New Orleans lives at or below the poverty line and New Orleans has the lowest rate of car ownership of any major city in the United States (including New York and Washington D.C.)  Stories about failed evacuation plans must point to the politicians responsible, and must expose the structural inequality and racism that are root causes of this disaster.

2. Survivors locked up in makeshift jail

A Greyhound Bus Terminal
converted to a temporary jail will hold 700 people in makeshift cells. Dozens of these people are incarcerated for misdemeanors such as taking items from hardware stores and convenience stores and “disturbing the peace.” We need stories that place the formation of this jail in the context of the inadequate search, rescue and relief efforts.  While this jail was created in a few days to punish hundreds, thousands of people are still waiting for medical care, basic supplies, and information about family members, and more than 80,000 people are still missing.

3. Hundreds of young people separated from their families

The media has told stories about rescued pets but where are the stories about the hundreds of young people who have lost parents and guardians, the young people who remain locked up inside juvenile detention centers? Youth from the Orleans Parish Detention Center, most of them black, arrived at Jetson Correctional Center for Youth last Wednesday covered in sewage, starving, and dehydrated. They were stranded for days with no water or food.

4. Federal Budget Cuts to New Orleans Army Corps of Engineers Left Levee in Disrepair

Bush cut $71 million was cut from the New Orleans Army Corps of Engineers, which shelved plans to repair the aging levy. Stories about when and why this cut was made, and where this money went are key to understanding the root causes of this disaster and how to prevent a disaster like this in the future.

5.  Discriminatory denial of public aid

The Bush administration recommended that “private charities” spearhead relief efforts, and has put former Presidents Bush and Clinton in charge of a private donation drive. Meanwhile, Bush has discouraged foreign government aid from France, Germany, Venezuela and Russia, stating that “unsolicited aid could be problematic.” After September 11, public aid flooded quickly into New York while poor black families in New Orleans are still waiting for food and water.

6.  Search and rescue replaced by shoot-to-kill

On Thursday September 1, Louisiana governor Katherine Blanco ordered National Guardsmen and 1,500 police officers to stop their search for survivors in order to crackdown on “looters.” As of September 2, the National Guard received orders to “shoot-to-kill.” The body count rose as police and military cracked down on people who were simply trying to survive.

7.  While thousands suffer, some corporations will get paid

How much is Halliburton going to make from rebuilding Louisiana and Mississippi? News stories about those companies with pre-existing contracts to rebuild must be told in the context of the intense poverty afflicting the majority of people in the region. How will the reconstruction effort benefit them?

8.  Public aid spent on militarization

The Pentagon received $50 million for their role in relief efforts – what are they doing with this money?

9.  Local National Guard Forces Occupied in Iraq

One-third of the Louisiana National Guard, and more of the Mississippi National Guard, are fighting the War on Iraq (NYT). Residents wonder if this slowed rescue efforts in the region.

10.  Organized acts of heroism are filling the vacuum of governmental support

Survivors are combing neglected areas to find other survivors and bring them to safer ground. Residents evacuated from New Orleans reportedly saw local food service workers scour commercial kitchens to provide meals to hundreds of those stranded, people rescuing others from elevators, and ferrying survivors using boats found in the wreckage. In the absence of relief, the faces of victims are the faces of heroes who have been drown out by images of so-called crime and “looting.”

9) “Let the People Rebuild New Orleans”

by Naomi Klein
The Nation, September 9, 2005

“The people of New Orleans will not go quietly into the night, scattering across this country to become homeless in countless other cities while federal relief funds are funneled into rebuilding casinos, hotels, chemical plants…. We will not stand idly by while this disaster is used as an opportunity to replace our homes with newly built mansions and condos in a gentrified New Orleans.”

The statement comes from Community Labor United, a coalition of low-income groups in New Orleans. It went on to demand that a committee made up of evacuees “oversee FEMA, the Red Cross and other organizations collecting resources on behalf of our people…. We are calling for evacuees from our community to actively participate in the rebuilding of New Orleans.”

It’s a radical concept: The $10.5 billion released by Congress and the $500 million raised by private charities doesn’t actually belong to the relief agencies or the government; it belongs to the victims. The agencies entrusted with the money should be accountable to them….

Except relief and reconstruction never seem to work like that. When I was in Sri Lanka six months after the tsunami, many survivors told me that the reconstruction was victimizing them all over again. A council of the country’s most prominent businesspeople had been put in charge of the process, and they were handing the coast over to tourist developers at a frantic pace.

Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of poor fishing people were still stuck in sweltering inland camps, patrolled by soldiers with machine guns and entirely dependent on relief agencies for food and water. They called reconstruction “the second tsunami.”

There are already signs that New Orleans evacuees could face a similarly brutal second storm. Jimmy Reiss, chairman of the New Orleans Business Council, told Newsweek that he has been brainstorming about how “to use this catastrophe as a once-in-an-eon opportunity to change the dynamic.”

The Business Council’s wish list is well-known: low wages, low taxes, more luxury condos and hotels. Before the flood, this highly profitable vision was already displacing thousands of poor African-Americans: While their music and culture was for sale in an increasingly corporatized French Quarter (where only 4.3 percent of residents are black), their housing developments were being torn down.

“For white tourists and businesspeople, New Orleans’ reputation is ‘a great place to have a vacation but don’t leave the French Quarter or you’ll get shot,'” Jordan Flaherty, a New Orleans-based labor organizer told me the day after he left the city by boat. “Now the developers have their big chance to disperse the obstacle to gentrification–poor people.”

Here’s a better idea: New Orleans could be reconstructed by and for the very people most victimized by the flood. Schools and hospitals that were falling apart before could finally have adequate resources; the rebuilding could create thousands of local jobs and provide massive skills training in decent paying industries.

Rather than handing over the reconstruction to the same corrupt elite that failed the city so spectacularly, the effort could be led by groups like Douglass Community Coalition. Before the hurricane this remarkable assembly of parents, teachers, students and artists was trying to reconstruct the city from the ravages of poverty by transforming Frederick Douglass Senior High School into a model of community learning.

They have already done the painstaking work of building consensus around education reform. Now that the funds are flowing, shouldn’t they have the tools to rebuild every ailing public school in the city?

For a people’s reconstruction process to become a reality (and to keep more contracts from going to Halliburton), the evacuees must be at the center of all decision-making. According to Curtis Muhammad of Community Labor United, the disaster’s starkest lesson is that African-Americans cannot count on any level of government to protect them. “We had no caretakers,” he says.

That means the community groups that do represent African-Americans in Louisiana and Mississippi — many of which lost staff, office space and equipment in the flood — need our support now. Only a massive injection of cash and volunteers will enable them to do the crucial work of organizing evacuees — currently scattered through forty-one states–into a powerful political constituency.

The most pressing question is where evacuees will live over the next few months. A dangerous consensus is building that they should collect a little charity, apply for a job at the Houston Wal-Mart and move on. Muhammad and CLU, however, are calling for the right to return: they know that if evacuees are going to have houses and schools to come back to, many will need to return to their home states and fight for them.

These ideas are not without precedent. When Mexico City was struck by a devastating earthquake in 1985, the state also failed the people: poorly constructed public housing crumbled and the army was ready to bulldoze buildings with survivors still trapped inside.

A month after the quake 40,000 angry refugees marched on the government, refusing to be relocated out of their neighborhoods and demanding a “Democratic Reconstruction.” Not only were 50,000 new dwellings for the homeless built in a year; the neighborhood groups that grew out of the rubble launched a movement that is challenging Mexico’s traditional power holders to this day.

And the people I met in Sri Lanka have grown tired of waiting for the promised relief. Some survivors are now calling for a People’s Planning Commission for Post-Tsunami Recovery. They say the relief agencies should answer to them; it’s their money, after all.

The idea could take hold in the United States, and it must. Because there is only one thing that can compensate the victims of this most human of natural disasters, and that is what has been denied them throughout: power. It will be a long and difficult battle, but New Orleans’ evacuees should draw strength from the knowledge that they are no longer poor people; they are rich people who have been temporarily locked out of their bank accounts.

Those wanting to donate to a people’s reconstruction can make checks out to the Vanguard Public Foundation, 383 Rhode Island St., Suite 301, San Francisco, CA 94103. Checks should be earmarked “People’s Hurricane Fund.”

Residents Call on CHA to Open Units

[Posted 9-8-05, Updated 9-14-05]

CHA is offering 500 units to house up to 1,000 seniors displaced by Hurricane Katrina, but public housing residents are calling on the authority to do more.

In response to calls by resident leaders at several developments to open units for displaced families, Kim Johnson of CHA said that “CHA feels that it would be disrespectful to families who have suffered so much loss to place them in dilapidated public housing units that are slated for demolition.”

Cabrini leader Carol Steele say there are scores of newly rehabbed units among 1,200 vacant apartments there, and many more could be made habitable with as little as a day’s worth of rehab. Resident groups at Cabrini have offered volunteers to help prepare apartments for displaced families, said Deidre Brewster of the Coalition to Protect Public Housing.

“We have family members coming from Louisiana, and we have vacant rehabbed units and we want to offer family units to families that want to stay here,” Brewster said. Public housing in New Orleans has been inundated in the storm and subsequent flooding.

Lathrop Homes residents and supporters including members of the Logan Square Neighborhood Association and the Church of Good News were organizing fix-up crews and collecting donations of furniture, clothing, food and money after learning that CHA was planning to offer units there to displaced families, said Tami Love of LSNA. Three-fourths of the low-rise development at Clybourn and Damen are vacant. Days later the decision to offer the units was withdrawn, according to Rev. Edie Lenz of the Church of Good News.

In a September 13 letter to the Sun-Times, leaders of Rockwell Gardens reported that the resident management company there has more than 30 recently-renovated family units available for evacuees, and urged the CHA “to promptly begin planning so that those made homeless by the hurricane no longer have to suffer in temporary shelters.”

CHA subsequently informed the leaders “they’re not going to release the units,” said Peggy Godfrey of the Wardell Yotaghan Resident Management Corp. at Rockwell Gardens.

Governors in the Midwest have reportedly been asked to prepare for more than 30,000 refugees from the hurricane. Nationwide there are an estimated 1 million people displaced by the storm.

In the Chicago area, many displaced families are currently being moved into suburban mental health facilities. In the city, displaced families are being housed in homeless shelters.

Meanwhile, HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson called on public housing authorities to assist evacuees.

“We have had a number of public housing authorities nationwide, from as far away as Ohio and Pennsylvania, step up to this challenge and immediately start making all their vacant units accessible for displaced families,” said Jackson.

“We will be working with all the PHAs around the clock to help restore that sense of security a family has when there is a roof over their head.”

Chicago Wireless Activists Aid Louisiana

The Wireless Community Network project of the Center for Neighborhood Technology is helping to bring emergency telecommunications technology to rural Gulf Coast communities ravaged by Hurricane Katrina.

Two WCN technicians, Paul Smith and Rogers Wilson III, are working with dozens of community wireless volunteers from around the country in Rayport in northern Louisiana, where farmer Mac Dearman operates a rural internet provider service with a 100-foot antenna.

Using software developed by WCN to piggy-back wireless internet connections, building antennas and providing laptops, internet phones, and other equipment, they’ve established internet and internet-based telephone access in local shelters.

Throughout rural communities in northern Louisiana and Mississippi, “towns of 100 people are sheltering 200 evacuees in the local Baptist church,” Smith and Wilson report in postings on the WCN website. Small, ad-hoc shelters are popping up throughout the region, “too many to keep track of,” increasing the need for communication, said Nicole Friedman of WCN.

Internet and phone connections allow displaced families to contact relatives and register for federal assistance and survivor databases. Communication is also crucial for relief workers.

Smith and Wilson are also mapping out plans with the resource manager of Gulfport, Mississippi, where over 3,000 evacuees are cut off from communication in several Red Cross shelters as well as numerous churches and farms, and discussions are under way with other communities.

The wireless technology “could be a short-term solution, or it could be a long-term solution as needed,” Friedman said, depending on how long it takes to restore regular phone service. The technology is highly flexible and the technicians are skilled at improvisation, she said.

Hurricane Katrina destroyed telecommunications infrastructure throughout the region, with the cost of replacement estimated in the billions of dollars. Large telecom companies are focused on reestablishing communications for emergency services.

WCN has established pilot projects in Chicago’s Pilsen and Lawndale neighborhoods and in suburban Elgin and downstate West Frankfort, using wireless technolocy to deliver low-cost, high-speed broadband access to homes, small businesses, and community institutions in underserved areas.

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