fer (dogemperor) wrote in hurricane_fema,

More problems with "faith-based initiatives" in NOLA relief efforts

The New York Times has reported on possible human rights violations in a Katrina evacuee camp (presently housed in a former "Indian School" set up to "Christianise" Cherokee people who were forcibly removed from their homes by state and federal governments in the "Trail of Tears" (which actually extended from 1817 to 1879 in a series of forced "removals", the most infamous of these being in the winter of 1838 in direct violation of a US Supreme Court order (something that would not be repeated in the sheer level of flagrant disregard for law until the administration of Bush II).)

(As an aside, this is something that hits home to me--I myself am of Cherokee descent, and had relatives who had to hide out from the "Removals". The Removals wrecked Cherokee culture sufficiently that it is only now, more than 100 years after the last Removals, that some of us are rediscovering our heritage and culture; we're having to literally re-learn the "old ways". Much has been permanently lost (even *with* Cherokees having their own written language). I fear for the Katrina refugees that much the same may end up happening with the unique cultures of New Orleans.)

According to the New York Times article, not much has changed since the "Indian School" days *or* the days of forced marches to Oklahoma:

* volunteers are more interested in federal handouts from FEMA than actual assistance of refugees and have reportedly verbally abused refugees who complain about poor conditions, no medical or psychiatric triage is available, people are not allowed to cook (even with their own facilities and even "comfort foods", and even if they have special dietary needs such as diabetics) and are being fed substandard food
* evacuees are largely being held incommunicado (with no news of the outside world filtering in (no phones/newspapers/etc.), nor any real way to communicate with the outside--no phones, not even cell, are available) to the point that some evacuees are reporting being disoriented as to day and date
* evacuees are not being afforded educational activity nor spiritual activity per their own consciences
* reportedly even garbage is not being collected and donated goods are not being distributed to evacuees
* basic security of the facilities is neglected; people are being housed in dormitories (from "Indian school" days) with no locks on doors (the original facilities had no locks on doors so that "Indian school" inmates could be checked up on to make sure they weren't following the "old ways" or speaking in Cherokee--traditionally prohibited in "mission schools")
* staff deride the evacuees, describing them as "ungrateful" even though the evacuees are being housed in poor conditions, and are unwilling to assist evacuees in such things as reuniting with relatives

Reportedly people in the area are not being allowed to use FEMA housing vouchers to rent temporary housing (due to markups of housing costs), are placing ornerous requirements (including full criminal background checks) on NOLA evacuees that effectively lock them out of the housing market, meaning they are stuck at the "Indian school" indefinitely. The evacuees in turn have been literally verbally abused by the staff of the "mission" in turn for "not looking hard enough".

The area where the "mission" is an economically depressed area where over half the population has left, and in the nearest town of any size (Ft. Smith, Arkansas) there are only two major employers (Whirlpool and Planter's Peanuts). Residents of those areas have also joined in condemning the evacuees, blaming them for "not getting out" even though they followed the specific instructions of emergency management personnel.

Needless to say, this is yet another example of the emergency mismanagement that has occured in this disaster; this also is a violation of basic principles regarding refugee relief efforts.

Combined with reports that dominionist-affiliated "charities" are explicitly targeting NOLA refugees, including children, for stealth evangelism...this doesn't exactly reassure me.
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