The Katrina Pain Index

by Shaker Redstar

I have been working in disaster recovery in post-Katrina New Orleans and the Gulf Coast since 2005. The three-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina is tomorrow, August 29. Right now my friends and colleagues in the city of New Orleans are making evacuation plans, worried about the potential landfall of Hurricane Gustav, estimated to be a Category 3 disaster that could strike SE Louisiana west of the city.

It's unlikely I have to disabuse Shakers of the notion that the city has "recovered"—whether equitably or even just substantially enough to withstand another devastating hurricane. Katrina killed over 1,800 people and permanently displaced roughly 100,000 people from their homes. Rents are up almost 50%, and the city is whiter and wealthier than prior to the storm. The Council is majority white for the first time in decades, and 5,000 units of public housing were razed this past winter, despite nationally concerted efforts to pass legislation that would have preserved and/or replaced them one-for-one with new housing or housing vouchers. The Corps estimates the levees can handle a 30-year storm like Gustav (Katrina was a 396-year storm), but that does little to reassure and protect the newly 12,000 homeless in a city facing the worst blight and murder rate in the country, a city that lacks a public hospital and mental health system that can adequately meet the needs of a broadly traumatized population.

In advance of tomorrow's anniversary, the following "Katrina Pain Index" was compiled by Bill Quigley, "a human rights lawyer, law professor at Loyola University New Orleans and author of the forthcoming book, STORMS STILL RAGING: Katrina, New Orleans and Social Justice." I received it via the New Orleans Housing Emergency Action Team (NOHEAT) listserv, and am distributing with his permission.

A snapshot of New Orleans three years after Katrina:

0. Number of apartments being rehabbed to replace the 963 public housing apartments demolished at the St. Bernard Housing Development.

0. Amount of data available to evaluate performance of publicly financed privately run charter schools in New Orleans in 2005-2006 and 2006-2007 school years.

0. Number of renters in Louisiana who have received financial assistance from the $10 billion federal post-Katrina rebuilding program Road Home Community Development Block Grant.

.008. Percentage of the rental homes that were supposed to be repaired and occupied by August 2008 which were actually completed and occupied – a total of 82 finished out of 10,000 projected.

1. Rank of New Orleans among U.S. cities in percentage of housing vacant or ruined.

1. Rank of New Orleans among U.S. cities in murders per capita for 2006 and 2007.

4. Number of the 13 City of New Orleans Planning Districts that are at the same risk of flooding as they were before Katrina.

10. Number of apartments being rehabbed so far to replace the 896 apartments formerly occupied and now demolished at the Lafitte Housing Development.

11. Percent of families who have returned to live in Lower Ninth Ward.

17. Percentage that wages are up in the hotel and food industry since before Katrina.

20-25. Years that experts estimate it will take to rebuild the City of New Orleans at current pace.

25. Percent fewer hospitals in metro New Orleans than before Katrina.

32. Percent of the city's 50 neighborhoods that have fewer than half as many households as they did before Katrina.

36. Percent fewer tons of cargo that move through Port of New Orleans since Katrina.

38. Percent fewer hospital beds in New Orleans since Katrina.

40. Percentage fewer special education students attending publicly funded privately run charter schools than traditional public schools.

41. Number of publicly funded privately run public charter schools in New Orleans out of total of 79 public schools in the city.

43. Percentage of child care available in New Orleans compared to before Katrina.

46. Percentage increase in rents in New Orleans since Katrina.

56. Percentage fewer inpatient psychiatric beds than before Katrina.

80. Percentage fewer public transportation buses now than pre-Katrina.

81. Percentage of homeowners in New Orleans who received insufficient funds to cover the costs to repair their homes.

300. Number of National Guard troops still in City of New Orleans.

1090. Days National Guard troops have remained in City of New Orleans.

1250. Number of publicly financed vouchers for children to attend private schools in New Orleans in program's first year.

6,982. Number of families still living in FEMA trailers in metro New Orleans area.

8,000. Fewer publicly assisted rental apartments planned for New Orleans by federal government.

10,000. Houses demolished in New Orleans since Katrina.

12,000. Number of homeless in New Orleans even after the camps of people living under the bridge have been resettled. This is twice the pre-Katrina number.

14,000. Number of displaced families in New Orleans area whose hurricane rental assistance expires March 2009.

32,000. Number of children who have not returned to public school in New Orleans, leaving the public school population less than half what is was pre-Katrina.

39,000. Number of Louisiana homeowners who have applied for federal assistance in repair and rebuilding who have still not received any money.

45,000. Fewer children enrolled in Medicaid in New Orleans than pre-Katrina.

46,000. Fewer African American voters in New Orleans in 2007 gubernatorial election than 2003 gubernatorial election, according to a report in the Times-Picayune in April 2008.

55,000. Fewer houses receiving mail than before Katrina.

62,000. Fewer people in New Orleans enrolled in Medicaid than pre-Katrina.

71,657. Vacant, ruined, unoccupied houses in New Orleans today.

124,000. Fewer people working in metropolitan New Orleans than pre-Katrina.

132,000. Fewer people in New Orleans than before Katrina, according to the City of New Orleans current population estimate of 321,000 in New Orleans, according to reporting in the Times-Picayune in July 2008.

214,000. Fewer people in New Orleans than before Katrina, according to the U.S. Census Bureau current population estimate of 239,000 in New Orleans, according to reporting in the Times-Picayune in July 2008.

453,726. Population of New Orleans before Katrina.

320 million. The number trees destroyed in Louisiana and Mississippi by Katrina.

368 million. Dollar losses of five major metro New Orleans hospitals since Katrina through 2007. In 2008, hospitals expect another $103 million in losses.

1.9 billion. FEMA dollars that are supposed to be available to metro New Orleans for Katrina damages that have not yet been delivered.

2.6 billion. FEMA dollars that are supposed to be available to State of Louisiana for Katrina damages that have not yet been delivered.

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