February 21, 2008

Liquidation > Imagination: The Homeless Problem

In some ways, the new homeless population of New Orleans have become the litmus paper for city government's ineptitude and the consequences thereof. While many cities have homeless problems, ours is a particular case where the cause is known (the storm) and the response follows an ugly chain of denial-additional displacement-allowing someone else to handle it--and, now, counterproductive cover-up.

This is some idiotic BS of the highest, Nagin-specific level. It gets to the core of our greatest failures in the recovery--lack of imagination and leadership, and short-sighted, insensitive treatment of our weakest residents.


1. If UNITY of New Orleans has taken the lead on this problem, using an innovative approach with proven results in other cities (see the TP article), why cut off this course completely and return to a more traditional, dead end solution?

My refrain for the last 6 months or so: there's no imagination in leadership, and thus we get badly recycled band-aids or total inaction. Above all, imagination dies at the hands of soft minded defenders of "the bottom line." This isn't bottom line time! This humanity and long-term civilization time! Don't pretend you're fiscal geniuses while letting people suffer. You've proven you can't handle basic paperwork and now you add on cold-heartedness.

2. Speaking of would-be genius, why is Blakely in charge of this? I'm not one to bash him automatically (though at this point, I could care less how bad he gets it), and I understand that he's defacto mayor, but really: why is a social problem turned over to the money manager? Does he not have enough to (not) do? What does he know about solving a homeless issue?

No, what Blakely knows is image. So it was no surprise that the All-Star game brought quick promises of cleaning this problem up in a week? Why the haste now? Is it the national cameras? Are they the only agent of change?

If Blakely is such an innovative mind, why does he turn to the bad, old solution, if not for the tourist economy he said we couldn't survive on? What happened?

3. Who the f*ck is the head of the New Orleans Mission, and why is he in this business? Look at these quotes:

"We'll get all of them out from underneath that bridge one way or another."
"Once someone pays their rent, many people won't want to pay rent anymore," he said. "That's not a popular philosophy, but it's the truth."

His name is Ron Gonzales. I guess he means business. He can do it cheaper, he can turn away anyone with a substance abuse problem, and above all, HE CAN GET THEM OUT OF SIGHT.

Somedays you wake up in the morning, even in your warm home, and read the front page, and you look out the window, and you wonder--seriously wonder--if this is worth it.

When the heartlessly idiotic play with the fate of the downtrodden like they were numbers on a budget sheet (an item these fools can barely paste together), not for the good of the city, but for the comfort of the occasional tourist, you wonder if you can wait another two years for Nagin and Co. to leave. And you wonder if this will be the city you love when that time comes.