RE:Help me keep a family out of a tent.

I was asked:

Good luck with this, but is this the right and fair way to solve this kind of problem? If the money is raised, one family gets a new home and others don’t. Surely $45000 could build a lot of inhabitable garages that could be used until people can do more for themselves.

I say this without knowing much about the situation, like why they don’t have access to insurance money, what kind of house you get for $45000, what kind of house they had before, what their income is now and what it was before the hurricane, what the FEMA is, what the FEMA is going to do with the trailer, how many other people are losing their trailers, how their current situation compares to others there, how much land they have, etc. Perhaps you can fill me in.

BTW, it wouldn’t be practical for me to contribute, having no access to credit cards or US banks. I’d have to pay many times that in Money Order fees.

To which I replied:

I think I can answer all of your questions Peter. It will just take some reading.

First of all, FEMA is the Federal Emergency Management agency. They provided, to the best of my knowledge, 31,400 travel trailers and 4,700 mobile homes as temporary living shelters in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. The trailers were provided free of charge for 18 months. In February 2007, that housing assistance will end and the trailers will in all likelihood be disposed of. They were always intended as temporary shelters and after being lived in for a year and a half, I suspect they have reached their safe life expectancy. The mobile homes (not the trailers) can be purchased by those occupying them. (http://www.clarionledger.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20061015/NEWS/610150388)

As of October 95% of those trailers were still occupied. With the need for housing, the price of residences has skyrocketed. (www.nlihc.org/press/101706pr.pdf)

I’ll admit I don’t know the exact Earl family income before Toby lost his fishing boat (well, not really lost – they can see it still up in a tree near them) and before the restaurant where Yvette worked was destroyed. However, the median household income was $31,224 in the year 2000 (http://www.city-data.com/city/Pearlington-Mississippi.html). Toby has since salvaged a flat boat which he can use to go out to reach a smaller number of traps. He’ll work to recover from there.

I also don’t know the specific value of their previous home. I can tell you that 6 years ago the median house value was $60,000 and most of the houses were between 20-30 years old. Right now there really is no median house value to speak of. The $45,000 for a new built house is not building them a luxury condo, but it will be safe, clean and livable. (http://www.city-data.com/housing/houses-Pearlington-Mississippi.html)

You are very correct in saying that a large number of heated enclosures could be built as a stop gap. However, I don’t believe that would be possible. It would not be allowed. One thing that everybody must remember, about the south, is that everything is about power. While it would logically make some sense to suspend zoning laws and some local building codes in this state of emergency, it will not be done. It would reduce the power of those in charge of such things. It would be declared that health concerns would prevent building structures that do not meet code, but there would be other reasons at play. Never mind that the daily low of 40 degree (F) and average daily temp of 50 has an effect on health. People garner power in the south and hold onto it with a death grip. Sometimes that literally involves death.

On one of her trips to Pearlington, Angela delivered supplies and donations from churches up north. A local pastor, Rev. Fred Fields of the Mount Zion AME Church, had agreed for the supplies to be unloaded. However there was a problem. Rev. Fields was also on the pay of the local distribution center – center that had grown a reputation for “mis-allocation” of supplies. It appears that when he reported to the distribution board the size of the donations and they realized the Angela’s actions were reaching a disturbing level compared with what the distribution center was achieving, he refused to let any more donations be delivered to the people of Pearlington from church property. Getting all of this second hand, I can’t be certain of Rev. Fields full motivation, but the end action is that he refused to assist in delivering goods and made a play to funnel all of that material through an operation for which he was on the payroll. The end result was that a neighbor opened up their private property and legal distribution of goods continued 50′ away from the original location. BTW that neighbor was the wife of the pastor that founded the AME church. This wasn’t a church matter. (http://www.pearlingtonproject.org/update3.htm)

So, in short, http://www.pearlingtonproject.org/ – the Pearlington Project is a group of people I am familiar with and that is outside of the corrupt influence of the local southern governmental association. (NOTE THIS IS THE .ORG SITE, I know little about the group running the .com site beyond it being a group of doctors from Colorado) There are many places in which people can make donations to general funds. I’m quite certain that if you were one who wished to help, you could make donations to the Red Cross and other foundations in amounts of $50, $100, $1000, or more compared to which money order fees would be negligible. And when that amount is spread amongst the 35,000 households in need of permanent shelter, it will help some.

My wife and I have chosen to take a different approach. The Pearlington project is working to build houses in general. As many as possible, one at a time. The houses will be prebuilt up north, shipped in pieces to Pearlington and assembled. The $45,000 covers not only all zoning permits, building materials, labor costs and supplies, carpets and internal fixtures for each house. Donations to the general Pearlington project will be spread amongst those efforts. My wife selected the Earl family as a specific target, a way to put distinct faces before those who might not have donated to a general fund. I think that is a very good idea and have taken up the cause. Our goal of reaching $45,000 is difficult, but it just might be achievable.

I certainly do encourage you to donate to a general fund if you think it is a better way for your money to be spent. I look forward to hearing about it. However, I think I can raise more funds through giving people a target goal and some faces to go with it. Additionally, if I can show those that donated, a family moving into a house, maybe people will enjoy the feeling of being a part of that. They will see exactly what their monies helped achieve and maybe – just maybe – we can move on to the next house, and the next one after that – hopefully with your help.