bureaucracy inaction

While Amy and I have been enjoying the great weather and sights in Austin, we\'ve been feeling a bit frustrated with our role. Yesterday we had a two hour orientation at TRLA (Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid) in which we learned about the needs of the 4000 evacuees living in Austin and their struggles with receiving the FEMA assistance to which they are entitled. Heather, the attorney we are working with is an evacuee herself and we heard her story. It was striking to hear about how she packed up her car thinking she\'d be gone for a long weekend, only to find that her apartment was hit with 8 feet of water from the levee break. She said that the reality of the situation struck her after her 14 hour drive to Austin, days later as she stood on line to fill out paperwork for Red Cross Disaster Relief Aid.\r\n\r\nThe five of us student volunteers (3 from Columbia and the 2 of us BLS\'ers) are meant to be calling some 450 evacuees and finding out what assistance they have received from FEMA, what they\'ve been denied, and what they might be able to appeal. As Amy noted yesterday, it seems that many FEMA employees are not even aware of their own agency\'s policies and are misguidedly denying claims for assistance. However, that the contact list of evacuees was not ready for us yesterday, nor was the questionairre. Heather dismissed us early and told us to check in with her this morning. They were not ready this morning and we were to come in at 1pm today to begin our work. At 11am she called and said that she was called away from the office and we wouldn\'t be able to get started till tomorrow morning. And so it goes.\r\n\r\nI think I can speak for Amy in that we both feel disappointed that we have gotten such a late start. In some ways it seems that surely we must be able to do something. Surely they knew we were coming this week. Why the hold up? We only have three days left in which to fulfill the purpose of our trip. Yet what strikes me most about this situation is how it is, in a way, representative it is of the hurricane response in general. Unexpected delays. Good intentions met with confusion and perhaps poor planning. It also strikes me how frustrating this must be for Heather, the TRLA attorney. In the midst of her own personal struggle to resettle herself and her daughter, she was able to find a job helping folks in her own situation. That must be a gratifying, though heartwrenching job. And yet life\'s obstacles appear in this Murphy\'s law kind of way, constantly halt the process. Here she is with five people willing to get things done. And her plans keep getting changed and delayed and delayed.\r\n\r\nQuestions come to mind such as, why aren\'t there others on the staff helping her get these projects off the ground? Moreover, the big question remains, will we be able, in the three days we have left, to reach out to evacuees and give them some reassurance, an ear to listen to, the notion that they haven\'t been forgotten. Or will we just add to the countless voices telling them what we think they want to hear and not making much of a difference at all other than to put notches our \"good deed for the day lists\". I\'d like to think the former. I\'d like to think that we can be helpful to some, if only even a handful of people. I guess I would also like to think that I am able to gain some knowledge and bring it to the world to remind them that Katrina did not have borders that ended on the Louisiana, Mississippi state lines. Its ripple effects can be felt all over. The Austin job market, public housing, public assistance and legal resources are being stretched even further. The same is true all over the country.\r\n\r\nThis is not a problem that has gone away just because CNN doesn\'t cover it 24/7 any longer. The benefit concerts are over, the telethons too. But the country\'s attitude towards its neediest citizens was exposed for what it is. I can hope that the exposure remains fresh in our minds and we all work in whatever way we can to keep the awareness alive and the help coming. I can hope and I can work. And I hope tomorrow I can work.\r\n\r\nOriginally posted: http://bls-shn.blogspot.com/2006/03/bureaucracy-inaction.html

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“bureaucracy inaction,” Hurricane Digital Memory Bank, accessed August 11, 2022, https://hurricanearchive.org/items/show/30075.