Thursday, January 26, 2006

After being assigned what is surely the worst teaching schedule I've ever been assigned (three comps, two online courses, a lit course I've never taught before, and four separate preps,) I wasn't in the mood to get the following email. The email is in reference to the hundreds of displaced UNO faculty, staff, and students--among them, my dear friend and colleague, Kim, who lost her newly-bought Gentilly home. As I've mentioned before, the areas surrounding UNO are devastated. Nearly entirely. The drive to campus is chilling. And here I was whining about my schedule.

I was preparing a syllabus when the email came, and I read it out loud to Simon. We laughed incredulously, 'though it made me feel more like crying (one has to find alternatives to that if one is to stay sane.)

This email demonstrates the abomination that has been FEMA's response to Katrina. That the University of New Orleans--on the eve of a new semester--would have to send out a plea to its own alumni and faculty to house its own----!!!

Incidentally, FEMA has continued to call me and offer assistance EVEN AFTER I withdrew from the housing assistance program. (We'd returned to New Orleans and learned that our home was okay, so we withdrew. So we're not all leaches or low-lifes as the media may have you believe.) They have also offered trailers to friends whose homes were unscathed, while others whose homes were destroyed have waited and waited and continue to wait, still. This is five months after Katrina.

But, BEFORE I SHARE THIS EMAIL, I want to say that I worry, dear readers, that you will turn your backs on us--that you will read about the disaster that is FEMA and the clown that is our mayor and decide that we are not worth the nation's money and effort.

WE ARE! And we need you now--five months later--more than ever!

So here it is: the email that I CANNOT BELIEVE I received:

To: UNO Faculty, Staff, Students, Alumni, and Friends of UNO
From: Bobby L. Eason, Ed.D. Assistant to the Chancellor
Date: January 26, 2006
Subject: We need beds

The University of New Orleans needs your help. We want you to consider opening your home to one or more UNO faculty/staff/students (FSS) for a brief period of time.

Here is our plight. As promised to us by FEMA, trailer housing was scheduled to arrive in January for UNO’s displaced faculty, staff, and students (FSS). They have been delayed. We turned to “bridge” housing in hotel rooms, again recommended by FEMA. Now FEMA will not allow hotels to accept UNO FSS under the reimbursement program. We are appealing this decision to the highest level. In the meantime, many of our FSS do not have a bed for sleeping and school begins this Monday.

If you want to help, please respond immediately to the following:

I will accept one or more faculty members in my home (indicate how many).
I will accept one or more staff members in my home (indicate how many).
I will accept one or more students in my home (indicate how many).
I will accept a combination of faculty, staff, and students in my home (indicate how many and what combinations).
I am aware that student trailers will be ready late February and faculty/staff trailers late March. I am willing to have a UNO guests(s) in my home for (one week, two weeks, three weeks, four weeks, as long as the need exist, etc. Let us know how long your bed will be available.)
I am aware that some of the FSS have families. (Let us know your preferences, e.g., single persons only, husband and wife only, families with children O.K.)
Please indicate any restrictions that you wish to mention. (I am interested in non-smokers only. Smokers O.K., but must smoke outdoors. Smokers O.K.) All guests that smoke will be instructed to smoke out of doors.
I am aware that some individuals have pets. (Indicate your preference, e.g. I will accept guests with pets, it depends on the pet, no pets please.)
I am aware that many FSS are international. (I prefer international guests. I prefer traditional U.S. guests. I have no preference.)
I will open my home for a bed, but I will need some level of monetary compensation from my guests to defer utility and other expenses. (Please answer in any way that you wish.)
I am aware that meals are an issue. (I will provide a bed, but not food. I will provide a bed and meals. I will not provide meals, but will provide kitchen access. I will work out the meal situation with my guests.)
I am aware that some FSS may not have transportation to UNO. (I will be able to provide partial transportation to UNO. I will not be able to provide any transportation. I will discuss transportation with my guests.)
Indicate any other concern or restriction that you have.
I want to provide beds, but there are times when my guests must find other places to stay because of extenuating circumstances (leaving for Mardi Gras, have other guests coming in from out of town, etc.—please indicate)
In addition to above, if you are willing to share one or more beds, please provide the following:
Name ___________________________________
Phone ________ ___________ __________________
Cell phone ________ ___________ __________________
E-mail ______________________________________
Address ______________________________________

f. Other ______________________________________

Please e-mail, call, or personally contact Bobby Eason. Also, we have established a Temporary Housing Help Desk. Call (504) 280-5447 or 280-5428 (they do not roll over.) My direct phone is (504) 280-6874. My e-mail is You may submit your information in any form. I am located in room 2000 Administration Building if you want to drop it by.

This SOS is our last resort. We regret having to make this request. Yet, we appreciate your consideration of this crucial matter.

Wow. And these guys were at UNO--along with the national news--not long ago.

If only they were here now. I have a feeling that if they were, this email--this SOS--would be unnecessary. When the media forgets us, the government has a way of doing the same, too.


LaPartera said...

Hi Sarah, Your mom told me about your blog. thanks for keeping us all informed about the (lack of) progress in rehabing New Orleans. it is indeed horrific. The richest country in the world and we can't -- or won't -- get this fixed. While I am aware that the level of need is tremendous, it would seem that we as a nation could do better.

Anonymous said...

I work for FEMA and I can assure you that there was NO promise for housing @ UNO. FEMA told the UNO admin folks that everyone who needed housing could APPLY and recieve housing in fema mobile homes. Please notice the difference, APPLY not given and UNO admin has since admitted that they mispoke