Informing Redevelopment After Hurricane Katrina

colist at colist at
Thu Sep 29 20:59:04 CDT 2005

[ed:  Lisa is responding to Scott's story below.]

From: "Lisa Ranghelli" <lisa at>

I am angered by Scott Reed's stories of families who paid for hurricane
insurance and whose insurers are refusing to pay claims based on the
rationale that floods were the cause. Are any of the major organizing
networks or others challenging the insurance companies on this? I think
there would be a lot of people willing to call their insurers and
threaten to cancel policies if claims are not honored.

> [ed:  I am starting to see a number of messages about community 
> organizing approaches to rebuilding New Orleans, so I will start a new 
> thread here.]
> From: sreed at
> Last week Mary managed to get through check points to see her home in 
> Ponchatrain Park, where she has lived for 65 years since 
> African-Americans first had a chance to own homes in New Orleans. She 
> fainted. The home, which had been the center of her extended family, a 
> place where children and grandchildren always came back for holidays, 
> had been submerged in water for more than a week. She was able to 
> salvage one thing, a photo of her grandchildren that for lack of space 
> she’d hung just below where the wall hit the ceiling. Mary called her 
> insurance agent who asked her how many feet below water was the house. 
> She replied that he ought to know since his company wrote the policy. 
> The agent told her that despite paying for homeowners insurance and a 
> hurricane rider for 65 years, she would get nothing because the damage 
> was due to flood not Katrina. Mary says she wants to go home, not 
> alone but with family, neighbors and the people from her church who 
> helped her survive so much and gave her life meaning.
> Last week PICO families and congregations in Louisiana put out a new 
> call for help. They asked leaders and organizers from across PICO 
> National Network to come to Baton Rouge to support a massive effort to 
> help now-scattered New Orleans families come together to have a voice 
> in rebuilding their city. New Orleans has long been at the heart of 
> PICO. Since the mid-1980’s clergy, community leaders and organizers 
> from New Orleans have deeply shaped the culture of our network. In so 
> many ways PICO is a product of what we have collectively learned from 
> New Orleans: the every day fluency with power, race and politics; the 
> African-American church tradition; the unparalleled love of place and 
> understanding of how important it is to sustaining strong families.
> Thirty volunteer leaders and organizers from California, 
> Massachusetts, New Jersey, Florida, Michigan, New York and Colorado 
> began arriving in Louisiana on Wednesday. We came with the 
> understanding that with all the talk of creating a new New Orleans and 
> "reconfiguring the demographics of the city" rebuilding is not just 
> about jobs and homes but also a matter of creating hope, reconnecting 
> community and rescuing one of the greatest cultural treasures in 
> America, a vibrant African-American cultural center.
> With another powerful hurricane striking the Gulf Coast, Louisiana 
> faces overwhelming needs and limited capacity to rebuild itself. As we 
> write this, water is once again pouring into the 9th Ward of New 
> Orleans; families displaced by Katrina are yet again on the road 
> searching for shelter. Before Katrina, Louisiana, one of the poorest 
> states in the nation, failed to meet the basic needs of many of its 
> citizens. Now hundreds of thousands of people are living in shelters, 
> still awaiting urgent health care, counseling and the basic help they 
> need to rebuild their lives.
> As PICO leaders and staff have met with displaced families we have 
> heard over and over that the same gross failure to protect families 
> from Katrina continues to undermine relief efforts. Today at a church 
> shelter in Baton Rouge we met with families who described living in a 
> shelter without mental health services and health care for traumatized 
> victims. They told us of their anger at FEMA, Red Cross and others for 
> repeatedly failing to keep promises to provide services and of failing 
> to provide any answers of when temporary housing would be available. 
> These are families from a community abandoned by the government before 
> Katrina struck, left without the ability to get out of the city, sent 
> to a shelter that could not protect, finally evacuated to place they 
> could not chose and now living in a shelter without any answers about 
> what comes next.
> Amid the fear and chaos of the past three weeks we have also been awed 
> by the commitment of families and congregations in Louisiana to come 
> together to rebuild the state and return home to New Orleans. The ties 
> that bind families to each other, to their faith communities and to 
> place are powerful in this region. In so many ways and from so many 
> people we have heard the common cry that despite everything "we’re 
> going home."
> PICO organizers and leaders visited St. Anthony’s Catholic Church in 
> Baton Rouge to meet with 300 Vietnamese families displaced from New 
> Orleans. They told us that they wanted to return home to New Orleans, 
> and that under the leadership of their pastor they were actively 
> organizing to obtain materials and coordinate skilled craftsperson to 
> rebuild their church and homes. We heard stories of people moving back 
> to their water logged houses in order to not lose their jobs. The 
> message of these families, who originally came to America as refugees, 
> was that they want to go home to their jobs, churches and community 
> but need federal help.
> When asked to raise their hands if they intended to return to New 
> Orleans, almost all those at St. Anthony’s and other shelters in Baton 
> Rouge raised their hands.
> Many families who want to rebuild tell the same story we heard from 
> Mary of calling their insurance companies and being told that despite 
> paying for homeowners insurance and hurricane coverage over many years 
> they will not be compensated. Homeowners fear losing their homes to 
> foreclosure and renters are afraid of being evicted from houses they 
> lived in for 30 years. Although many families want to remain close to 
> New Orleans, FEMA is not even asking families where they would like to 
> live, but is instead moving forward with massive concentration of 
> trailers far from public transportation and job opportunities.
> The central lesson of the death and destruction in New Orleans is that 
> without power people perish. We know that these disasters are man 
> made; the Katrina autopsy will show a string of political decisions 
> that exposed those without money and influence to catastrophic danger. 
> So much of what we witnessed violated the cornerstone of human society 
> that every life has intrinsic value. As PICO has responded to the 
> aftermath of Katrina we have acted on the understanding that justice 
> is not just a matter of putting the right policies in place or 
> involving the community in planning. Doing right by those who died and 
> lost everything means insuring that families have the power to define 
> the agenda and control the outcome; it means equipping people to 
> reorganize themselves for power at a time when everything that held 
> together their families and communities has been upended.
> On September 12 PICO brought the voices of New Orleans and Louisiana 
> families and pastors to Washington, DC, holding a national press 
> conference and obtaining commitments from members of Congress that 
> displaced families would have a say in federal relief and recovery plans.
> On October 4 PICO LIFT is holding a statewide action meeting in Baton 
> Rouge to begin rebuilding Louisiana so that families can go home to 
> their communities. PICO LIFT leaders are calling on Congress and local 
> and state officials to work together with displaced families to make 
> sure that all families receive immediate relief that protects their 
> health and welfare. PICO LIFT is fighting for federal resources and 
> policies that insure families the right to return to New Orleans, to 
> project a vision for the future of their city and to receive the jobs 
> and economic opportunities that come from rebuilding the city.  PICO 
> LIFT is talking with hundreds of displaced families to get their input 
> into a comprehensive plan for relief and recovery.
> PICO federations from around the nation are traveling to Baton Rouge 
> to support Louisiana and take back the message that Congress should do 
> right by the Katrina families and not finance the rebuilding of 
> Louisiana and the Gulf Coast by cutting the safety net that so many 
> families depend on at times of need. Across PICO we are asking "what 
> are the levies that could break in our communities and who would be 
> left on the roof tops."
> In the early days after Katrina struck PICO encouraged people to make 
> contributions to the Red Cross and others providing immediate rescue 
> and relief; we also created a hotline for congregations to send 
> resources to churches in Louisiana that are sheltering families. We 
> continue to encourage direct support for sheltering communities.
> For those who want to support efforts by Louisiana families to 
> organize themselves to return home and have a voice in rebuilding the 
> city and state, we have created a Rebuild Louisiana Fund. You can 
> learn more or contribute to this fund by contacting John Baumann at 
> jbaumann at (501) 655-2801, 171 Santa Rosa Avenue, 
> Oakland, CA 94610. You can also donate online at 
> (select Louisiana 
> Interfaiths Together). All funds donated to the Rebuild Louisiana Fund 
> will be used to support work by Louisiana Interfaiths Together to 
> reach out to and organize families in the state to participate in 
> relief and recovery decisions.
> PICO National Network has worked since 1972 to give families and 
> congregations a voice in decisions that affect their communities. With 
> one million families, one thousand faith communities working in 150 
> cities and 18 states, PICO is one of the largest and most diverse 
> grassroots community efforts in the United States.
> Louisiana Interfaiths Together (PICO LIFT) is a state wide umbrella 
> for six PICO federations: All Congregations Together-New Orleans, 
> Working Interfaith Network-Baton Rouge, Bayou Interfaith Shared 
> Community Org.-Houma Thibodaux, Congregations Organizing People for 
> Equity-Lafayette, Delta Interfaith Network-Lake Providence, Hope 
> Ministries-Point Coupee Parish.
> Sincerely,
> Scott Reed, National Director of Organizing, PICO National Network
> If you received this message from a friend, you can sign up for PICO 
> National Network.
> ___

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