Maybe These Katrina Victims Should Move?

There’s one thought that kept popping into my head over and over again as I read this article.

Six years after Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast, the New Orleans neighborhood that was hardest hit still looks like a ghost town. Redevelopment has been slow in coming, and the neighborhood has just 5,500 residents – one-third its pre-Katrina population.

But politicians, investors and celebrities continue to promise a better future. City leaders recently announced plans to rebuild a high school and pave the neighborhood’s roads. And actor Wendell Pierce, who stars in an HBO series about New Orleans, is backing a new supermarket for an area that hasn’t had one in 20 years.

While residents welcome the news, they remain skeptical. Promises have been dashed too many times.

“Look around you at the Katrina houses!” said Robert Stark, a 54-year-old disabled veteran, sweating in stifling August heat on a porch looking onto Flood Street. He waved at two vacant crumbling houses, like so many that dot the Lower 9th Ward.

He shook his head and added: “Look at the grass.” In many lots, fields of high grass grow in place of houses. “There ain’t nothing new down here. Nothing new … nothing new.”

…In the Lower 9th Ward, the fire station for Engine 39 hasn’t been rebuilt. Instead, the firefighters use a trailer. Schools and churches are boarded up. Scores of houses still bear the markings of search-and-rescue crews – the now familiar “X” spray painted on doors and the front of houses to designate whether a building had been searched, by whom and whether any bodies had been found inside. The only difference is they are faded now.

The lack of people makes those who’ve come back feel that their neighborhood has been forgotten, even though a steady stream of politicians came to promise to help after Katrina and millions of dollars flowed in.

Now there’s a new push to revive the neighborhood.

In recent days, city leaders have put forward plans to rebuild the Alfred Lawless High School and spend $45 million repaving most of the streets where the heaviest damage took place.

…Pierce said big-chain supermarkets are unable to see the potential for profit in a place like the Lower 9th Ward, where his parents lived before he was born.

“Corporate America only sees the risk side of the ledger,” he said. “I’m tired of industry standing on the sidelines. There is value here, there is wealth here… It’s pent-up demand and I feel as though it is something that can be mined.”

But local residents and merchants hold out hope the supermarket can help turn things around.

“Maybe some of the folks going to the supermarket would come here,” said April Lawrence, the owner of a beauty salon who took a chance and opened in 2009 on Dauphine Street. “Today, I have just one client,” she said glumly. Unless business picks up, she said, she will have to close.

Let’s see, New Orleans is a giant, crime ridden, below sea level soup bowl. Many of the residents who were there before Katrina didn’t come back. Now there are people living in a crummy, impoverished, under-populated area filled with crumbling houses that’s still barely being rebuilt six years after Katrina.

Ummmm…this may sound a little harsh, but wouldn’t it make sense for these people to just cut their losses and move? The area doesn’t sound like it was all that great in the first place, but now? It’s a like being in a factory town after the factory has closed down. At some point, you just have to accept the sad reality that the area you live in is dying and hit the road. People do it every day. Many people in New Orleans have already done it. Sorry to say, but these people should do it, too.

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