I was thinking about why I feel so strongly that we let the poorest people of New Orleans down. And I want to note here, I am not speaking about the people who chose not leave the city for fear of looters, or the people who were set up with months of supplies, or even those who were afraid to leave their pets (of which I might well have been one). I am speaking solely of those who were too poor to leave on their own.
I realized why it has bothered me so. Many of these people did not have cars. Or did not have cars that would allow to get very far. They depended on public transportation to move around. The city set up a network of buses for them so they would not need cars. Yet when they wanted to leave, there was no way for them to do so. The transportation that they used on a daily basis would not remove them from the city. If you had no car, and depended on public transportation, how can you be expected to get yourself out of the city?? Walking out would be pointless as you could not possibly get far enough away.
And here is my biggest point. If the citizens of New York needed to evacuate the city (farther than just across the river as they did during 9/11) how would they get out? We would wonder why there wasn't an evacuation plan for those without cars, wouldn't we?? We would wonder how in the world our government could just leave people dependent on public transportation behind. We would expect public transportation to get them out. We wouldn't blame them for being poor because they used public transportation, we would sympathize. But in New Orleans, no such organization happened. They were sent to the superdome which was woefully undermanned, underprepared, uncoordinated. If this place was supposed to be a shelter, and this was the 'plan' that was to be used for those who could not evacuate on their own, should it not have been set up as such?? Should they not have been prepared with beds or at least food and water? Should they not have had organizers keeping the peace and Red Cross members already there to help people recover from what was so obviously going to cause damage? Even a regular hurricane, without the flooding should have had a preparedness plan for people who needed to find shelter in the Superdome. Even a regular hurricane could have left many homeless and in need of food and water. Shouldn't this have been previously supplied?
This is part of why I feel we let them down. There was no preparation to account for these people.
I have more to say on the state of welfare, but this is a start to my opinions. I am sure I am completely heating everyone up, but just think about it without blaming the people stuck there. Assume that the governments, local, state, and even national, knew that there was a population that couldn't get themselves out of the city. They just couldn't. You can't say they should have gotten themselves out of poverty. That is a completely different discussion. At this moment in time, they WERE (and are) in poverty. We can only look at where they were as of Saturday of last week. We can discuss the nature of their living situation in forum separate from last week. I know I interlaced them in my last post, but I shouldn't have. They are separate issues that happened to overlap. Let's first focus on why thousands of poor, immobile people were left without the resources they depended on, and were left in a 'shelter' without proper preparedness.
As I do whenever I am met with something I don't fully understand, I am starting to research more thoroughly the poverty of New Orleans, and also what happened there. Exactly why certain people didn't get out. Was it the poverty, or a cry wolf phenomenon, fear of looters, or all of the above? I have some responses I need to make to comments from my post yesterday, and I think they are too important to just post as comments back to the commenters, and I also think I may have formulated some ideas without a thorough understanding of the situation. Therefore, I am going to learn more, and then comment. I still believe my general stance is correct, or at least not wrong, but I need more to back myself up. So, to start my education (and yours if you are interested), I am going to post some demographic information. Here is a map of the poverty levels in New Orleans from a New Orleans Data website