Katrina Fatigue

A good portion of last night\'s dinner discussion was dedicated to answering questions about my day, which turned in to quite the policy discussion. I am staying with friends of mine here in Austin who knew a bit but not much more than I did about the ongoing Katrina problems in their city. As I was answering questions about who is still here, how long they are expected to remain in transit and where they will go from here I kept thinking about a phrase that Heather, the supervising attorney at TRLA used to describe the general population\'s attitude toward the continuing relief effort, \"Katrina Fatigue.\" She described to us the common feeling of inertia and helplessness that both evacuees and host cities are experiencing six months after the disaster. There is lingering media coverage but lets face it, calling FEMA or unemployment or even George Bush\'s office and being put on hold for an hour and a half before the call is either dropped or yet another operator tells you he can\'t help you, isn\'t nearly as titilating a news story as houses falling down, flood waters rising and people waiting for helicopters on rooftops; as a result not too many people know about the ongoing relief effort ( or the continuing need for it), the horror stories or the occassional success ( I spoke to a woman yesterday who said, \"Thank you so much you guys are doing such a great thing but I\'m all set - I actually got my money from FEMA\" Score! : ) ) and often the public wonders, \"well it\'s been six months shouldn\'t these people be helping themselves by now?\" The answer to that is complicated to say the least. In spite of the diversity of income level, education and need of everyone that I have spoken to in the past three days one thing remains a common thread - no one wants to be at the mercy of the government to pay their rent or to have to rely on the kindness of strangers for food and transportation. Unfortunately when you have such systemic chaos it forces people to remain helpless longer. It is mind boggling that as of December there were still an estimated 84,000 applications yet to even be processed by FEMA, not including the appeals people filed for wrongful denial. Applications that were supposed to be processed within 20 days are still sitting dormant close to 6 months later. Several clients are grappling with the reality that although their NO leases were wrongfully terminated so that their landlords could make more money at the higher rates, and they face eviction from their public housing in their host cities with no where to go and little to no response from FEMA. Many clients have had their previous jobs in NO offered back to them but they have no way to get down there and nowhere to live when they get there. In addition, unfortunately, lifes other problems do not cease for these people just because they have been the victims of disaster. As clients open up I have heard story after story about sick children, aging parents, difficulty in relationships, divorces and even deaths of close family members. As I listen to these heartwrenching stories hour after hour of each day that we volunteer and begin to feel overwhelmed and helpless myself, I have to stop and realize that if I am this \"fatigued\" after only a week it\'s unimaginable that these evacuees still have such an incredibly strong will to fight for what they are entitled to and in a lot of cases to help others do the same.\r\n\r\nI don\'t think I will ever view the word \"fatigue\" in the same light again..\r\n\r\nOriginally posted: http://bls-shn.blogspot.com/2006/03/katrina-fatigue.html

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“Katrina Fatigue,” Hurricane Digital Memory Bank, accessed August 17, 2022, https://hurricanearchive.org/items/show/30080.