Thursday, August 31, 2006

School of Hard Knocks - literally

NEW ORLEANS, LA. -- On the line at McDonald's on Canal Street (it can't all be gumbo and jambalaya, y'all), your blogstress, wearing press tags, was approached by a woman in her 30s or 40s, who offered a piece of paper bearing the following message:

What is Esther's Haven House?

Esther's Haven House is a non-profit organization that provides emergency safe accomodations for battered women and children. These women are housed free of charge and given the tools to restore their lives. Temporary refuge, job placement assistance, security, access to healthcare, childcare assistance and referral to educational resources for children are all provided. Our ultimate goal is resettlement of the family in a new, safe environment. ALL FREE OF CHARGE. We help as many women as our resources allow.

If you want to help us help these families, please make a donation today!

Esther's Haven House • 1900 St. Claude Avenue

For More Information Contact:

Kiesha Keller
PO Box 19021 NOLA 70119

It was Kiesha Keller who approached your Webwench, explaining, "Domestic violence has exploded in this city since Katrina."

Ms. Keller, herself, lost her home, in which she used to house the battered women to whom she tends. But she since found space in a new building, she said. During the day, she works cleaning the streets. Asked if she was a social worker, Ms. Keller replied with a laugh, "I'm a graduate from the school of hard knocks. I was a battered woman myself, and that's why I started this."

Your blogstress has no way of ascertaining the bona fides of Ms. Keller's outfit, but she surely seemed earnest enough. And mental health problems have reached epidemic proportions in areas impacted by Hurricane Katrina; up 45 percent, according to Catholic Charities.

At a gathering in Congo Square on Sunday, sponsored by Mercy Corps, at which musician and activist Cyril Neville and his lovely wife, Gaynielle performed, a beautiful angel of a child wearing a white dress, her many braids each adorned with a white satin ribbon, handed your blogstress a Mercy Corps pamphlet titled, Helping Children and Teens Cope with Hurrican Season: A Guide for Parents and Caregivers. Here's an excerpt:
Be a Model:

You first. To take care of children and teens, it is important that you nurture yourself. Take time for yourself with friends, faith, music and creative outlets. Try to eat right and excercise. Seek alone time and quietness. Taking just 10 minutes each day for YOU can really help! Talk about your feelings with people you trust; ask for help when you need it. Children often get worried when the adults around them are worried. If you can stay genuinely calm and positive, this will go a long way in reassuring your children. Taking care of yourself will help you be there for your children.

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Dr. John talks to your blogstress

NEW ORLEANS, LA. -- New Orleans legend Dr. John has a message for your blogstress's devotees, and for all Washington liberals. Check it out on TAPPED, the Weblog of The American Prospect Online.

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Audio-blogging from New Orleans

NEW ORLEANS, LA. -- In the coming days, your blogstress will be posting audio she gathered in New Orleans. In the meantime, your Webwench's devotees can satisfy their aural needs with the debut segement of Radio Free AddieStan.


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Holdin' on

NEW ORLEANS, LA. -- Reginald Halsey is a nice-looking, compact man of some 50 years, perhaps -- dark-skinned with greying hair, his two front teeth rimmed in gold. His bus driver's uniform is pressed just so.

Your blogstress met Mr. Halsey on Monday, when he helmed the motor coach that followed a group of Democratic congressmen and congresswomen as they toured sites that offered clues to the state of things in the New Orleans area in the year that has passed since Hurricane Katrina had her way with the city.

After we traveled through the Ninth Ward -- the site of the worst flooding during Katrina -- and St. Bernard Parish, we found ourselves stopped at a light on the London Avenue Canal. "This here canal," he said quietly, to no one in particular, "is the one that took my house."

As we continued through his neighborhood in line with the bus full of congresspeople, Mr. Halsey became a tour guide of his own journey. We passed a number of boarded-up commercial establishments. "Taco Bell -- gone," he said. "Popeye's -- gone." We passed an empty lot. "My favorite grocery store -- gone."

Today, Mr. Halsey lives in FEMA trailer, but tomorrow, he has no idea where he'll hang his hat.

"It's my friend's trailer," he explained, "but his daughter just had her baby and she's coming out of the hospital and needs a place to live. So I've got to move out."

For reasons no one can explain, Mr. Halsey cannot get FEMA to provide him a trailer, even though his house is unihabitable and all of the required services -- electricity, sewers, etc. -- have been restored to his neighborhood. (As I noted in this post, FEMA will not place trailers in neighborhoods, such as the lower Ninth Ward, that have no public utilities.)

"This lady on my block, they gave her a trailer, and she's not even using it. It's just sitting there," he said.

He left his wife and children in Atlanta with relatives, Mr. Halsey did, in order to hold on to his job with Louisiana Coaches, Inc., a charter bus company. When, a year ago, the waters began to rise, Mr. Halsey was pressed into service, he said, to move, via motor coach, a group of immobile elders from a New Orleans nursing home to one in Amite, 75 miles north of the city. He put his family on that bus with the nursing-home patients, but when he arrived in Amite, there was no room at the inn, so to speak. None of his charges could walk, and there were not enough beds for them at the Amite facility. Waiting for the powers that be to find an alternative facility, Mr. Halsey and his family lived on his bus for four days, until word came to bring the elders to a nursing home in Crowley, another 140 miles west of Amite.

Today, Reginald C. Halsey is employed, homeless and missing his family.

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