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currently stashed in: Cheshire Street, London
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September 08, 2005 || 9:58 am
More Katrina fallout

Katrina continues to impact on Greensboro, over a week later and 300 miles away. We learnt yesterday that 10,000 elderly and disabled evacauees are to be housed in neighbouring Greene County in a Red Cross tent city - Greene County itself only has a population of 9,900, of which over a third are officially below the poverty line.

A rental truck stuffed full of donated items turned up in town from the Red Cross in Tuscaloosa - enormous amounts of donated clothing, shoes, random toys and other thrift-store miscellaneous items. Again reminding us of the physical ramifications of these donation drives - masses of stuff that is not, of course, what we most urgently need - food, diapers, baby formula, for example. And it's totally unsorted, piled up in black trash bags, and surely more clothing than we can reasonably distribute in our area.

Yesterday we learnt that the Red Cross has been giving out debit Mastercards that evacuees can use to buy things they need - $360 for one person, rising to $900 for a four-person household. But today they have run out, and they are giving out cash. Next week everyone will get a $2000 FEMA cheque.

Today Ron in Pam's office (where I am temporarily installed to do my work) is trying to organise cutting up, packaging, freezing and distributing some enormous amount of donated meat to the evacuees.

Meanwhile, I read this (via Crooked Timber) - a horrifying account of being trapped in New Orleans during the disaster and the appalling, inhuman response by the authorities. And this about what awaits the evacuees after they get to a FEMA camp. And then, you read a report this positive from somewhere else...

All of which only goes to show how disparate people's experiences of this disaster will be. For some it is living hell. For others, who end up in Austin, with a $900 Mastercard from the Red Cross, it will be dreamlike - a deliverance to a world where people are incredibly generous, where opportunities await. Greensboro also is clearly a haven for the many who are coming into Pam's office for help. But for some who have come to Hale County, I have heard reports that they are shocked by how backwards it is compared to what they are used to - even poor black families, being generously taken in by local black households (of course, housing works on racial lines here), are expressing dismay at the conditions that they find themselves in.

And I wonder how the local population feels about the cash and aid being doled out left and right to the evacuees, while they are sitting in the same poverty as they have experienced for decades, ignored by the authorities. I hope that the goodwill currently being shown to those who have arrived here doesn't turn to resentment, or worse. There haven't been any fund drives for the poor who live here year on year, with no running water, no sewage, no job, no nothing.

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