Gulf Coast Update

Labor steps up for ‘young men of color’

Job training and job opportunities for young African American men will be provided under a new program announced last month by the AFL-CIO. The nationwide initiative will begin in hurricane-ravaged New Orleans, a city with a majority African American population.

The national labor federation was the first to respond to a new report, “A Way Out: Creating Partners for Our Nation’s Prosperity by Expanding Life Paths of Young Men of Color,” which was written by a commission chaired by Oakland Mayor-elect Ron Dellums. The Health Policy Institute (HPI) of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies commissioned the report.

The AFL-CIO announcement was an “amazing moment,” said Gail Christopher, HPI director, with labor’s leaders agreeing with the commission that “we have to take our country back and it starts with young men of color.”

Helen Kanovsky, chief operating officer of the AFL-CIO Housing Investment Trust, said the labor federation is equally excited about the new initiative. The commission “talked with a large number of corporations as well, but it was labor that stepped up first” and said “we’ve read your report, we agree and we’re here to help,” Kanovsky said.



Two court wins for Katrina survivors

A federal judge last month ordered FEMA to resume payments to thousands who lost homes to Hurricane Katrina, calling the agency’s policies confusing, unconstitutional and “Kafkaesque.”

U.S. District Judge Richard Leon found that the Federal Emergency Management Agency failed earlier this year to explain to aid recipients why they suddenly had to reapply or were no longer eligible for emergency assistance. He ordered FEMA to resume payments until it either allows evacuees to appeal or better explains its actions.

Charles Jackson, a spokesman for the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, which filed the lawsuit, said the ruling would affect up to 11,000 families.

In a second win for Katrina evacuees that week, a federal judge in Louisiana ruled Nov. 27 that homeowners might be entitled to more insurance reimbursement for flood damage because some policies excluding water damage were ambiguous.



Government to raze public housing

While nearly 100,000 people displaced by Hurricane Katrina spent Thanksgiving in FEMA trailers, public housing officials decided Dec. 7 to proceed with the demolition of more than 4,500 government-owned apartments in New Orleans.

Residents and public housing advocates argued strongly against demolition at a recent housing authority meeting in New Orleans.

“The day you decide to destroy our homes, you will break a lot of hearts,” said Sharon Pierce Jackson, who lived in one of the now-closed projects slated to be razed. “We are people. We are not animals.”

Stephanie Mingo, who had been a 43-year resident of the now-closed St. Bernard project, blinked back angry tears as she spoke during her allotted three minutes. “You are hurting people. You are killing people,” she said. “I don’t know how y’all can sleep at night.”

To repair the hurricane damage at the four largest complexes in question would cost only $130 million. Residents say that that many units could be reoccupied with a little cleaning or minor renovation.

Gulf Coast Update is compiled by Terrie Albano (talbano@pww.org).