[News] A Thousand Evictions a Day for Weeks

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Wed Nov 2 12:06:32 EST 2005

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- Tuesday, November 1, 2005 -


A Thousand Evictions a Day for Weeks


On Halloween night, New Orleans was very, very dark. Well over half the
homes on the east bank of New Orleans sit vacant because they still do not
have electricity. More do not have natural gas or running water. Most
stoplights still do not work. Most street lights remain out.

Fully armed National Guard troops refuse to allow over ten thousand people
to even physically visit their property in the Lower Ninth Ward
neighborhood. Despite the fact that people cannot come back, tens of
thousands of people face eviction from their homes. A local judge told me
that their court expects to process a thousand evictions a day for weeks.

Renters still in shelters or temporary homes across the country will never
see the court notice taped to the door of their home. Because they will not
show up for the eviction hearing that they do not know about, their
possessions will be tossed out in the street. In the street their
possessions will sit alongside an estimated 3 million truck loads of downed
trees, piles of mud, fiberglass insulation, crushed sheetrock, abandoned
cars, spoiled mattresses, wet rugs, and horrifyingly smelly refrigerators
full of food from August.

There are also New Orleans renters facing evictions from landlords who want
to renovate and charge higher rents to the out of town workers who populate
the city. Some renters have offered to pay their rent and are still being
evicted. Others question why they should have to pay rent for September
when they were not allowed to return to New Orleans.

New Orleans, known for its culture and food and music, is now pushing away
the very people who created the culture and food and music. Mardi Gras
Indians live and paraded in neighborhoods that sit without electricity or
water. The back room cooks for many of the most famous restaurants cannot
yet return to New Orleans. Musicians remain in exile. Housing is scarce and
rents are soaring. Over 245,000 people lost jobs in September. Public
education in New Orleans has not restarted. The levees are not even up to
their flawed level in August.

Dr. Arjun Sengupta, the United Nations Human Rights Commission Special
Reporter on Extreme Poverty, visited New Orleans and Baton Rouge last week.
He toured the devastated areas and listened to the evacuees still in
shelters and those living out of town with family.

Dr. Sengupta described current conditions as "shocking" and "gross
violations of human rights." The devastation itself is shocking, he
explained, but even more shocking is that two months have passed and there
is little to nothing being done to reconstruct vast areas of New Orleans.
"The US is the richest nation in the history of the world. Why cannot it
restore electricity and water and help people rebuild their homes and
neighborhoods? If the US can rebuild Afghanistan and Iraq, why not New

The longer the poor and working class of New Orleans stay away, the more
likely it will be that they never return. That, some say, is exactly what
those in power in New Orleans and Louisiana and the US must want.
Otherwise, why are they making New Orleans a ghost town?

Bill Quigley teaches at Loyola University New Orleans School of Law,
Quigley at loyno.edu.

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