Monday, September 3, 2007
Housing advocates take over HUD office in New Orleans
Public housing residents from St. Bernard’s, and several community organizations from New Orleans and around the country took over the Housing Authority of New Orleans (HANO) office last Friday, demanding they reopen four public housing developments operated under its direction.
The coalition included groups from New Orleans, Miami, Georgia, Texas, Rhode Island, and California along with Public Housing Residents of the Lower East Side (PHROLES) from New York City and the Coalition to Protect Public Housing from Chicago.
Two years after the developments were evacuated in the post-Katrina floods, the public housing developments have remained empty despite having sustained only moderate damage from the storm. Residents and groups have been prevented from rehabilitating and filling the vacant units.
The sit-in set off a three-hour confrontation with police, the National Guard, and SWAT teams after 25 residents and activists were denied a meeting with officials to discuss community demands. Under threat of arrest, the groups decided to cease their occupation of the building and to hold a national press conference before the media covering the anniversary of Katrina.
“What is happening with the public housing in New Orleans is just a preview of what can and will happen to public housing around the country if this story is not told,” said Lisa Burriss, director of organizing for PHROLES, who participated in the sit-in. “We must remain united, fighting for the rights of all low-income people in this country to have decent, safe and affordable places to raise their families. Housing is a human right!”
Street Roots reported this month that in January 2005, homeless outreach workers counted 6,300 people living on the streets in the city and its immediate suburbs. A count in 2007 estimated 12,000 people experiencing homelessness, though only an estimated 60 percent of the city’s general population had returned.
PHOTO BY TED JACKSON –The Times – Picayune