Boing Boing Considered Harmful to Shelter Residents

Although I'm finding some interesting things about the Hurricane Katrina relief effort blogged at Boing Boing (I posted one earlier today), I'm seeing some terribly misguided, distressing things too.

For instance, start with this post about the "concentration camp" setting in a Denver shelter. That striking description, however, is pulled out of context. Nobody in the shelter called it a "concentration camp." They are quoted saying things like, "real glad to be here." The "concentration camp" description comes from the reporter's displeasure at not having full access to the facility.

Well, how would you feel about the press being able to barrel into your bedroom at any time? Don't you think that might be a little damaging to your comfort and dignity? There are good reasons to manage press access in the residents' spaces.

Or take this article about the inability of some well-meaning volunteers to setup a low-power radio broadcasting facility in the Houston shelter. At this time the authorities are more concerned with moving people out of that shelter—not adding new ammenities to it—and they are doing a good job of it. News reports I saw today had the resident count down from 20,000 to 3,000.

I was listening to a disaster relief expert on the radio tonight (audio here, starting at 1:00) explaining how mass shelters are not the best solution, and instead create a lot of problems. I'd rather see officials working on moving people into better living circumstances, not building up a tent city.

The Red Cross may be a big, stupid bureaucratic organization, but they do have a little experience dealing with natural disasters. The Boing Boing crew (mostly Xeni) needs to drink a nice cup of STFU and recognize that their immense cleverness may not be what the evacuees need most right now.


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re: Boing Boing Considered Harmful to Shelter Residents

Go Chip, you said it! I've been at the Astrodome since we were assembling cots before the first survivors arrived, and that those radio guys would blog peoples' wildest accusations as the honest-to-god truth goes right to the heart of why they're not getting the access they want. There are about half a dozen cops stationed at every bathroom, for example -- I seriously doubt anyone was raped or murdered in the bathrooms.

This idea that the gov't dynamited the levees to protect the rich peoples' neighborhoods, doing about $100 billion of damage in the process, could someone please show me an engineering analysis of how that could have helped.

Things were dicey in the first few days last week. Now they're running pretty well.

re: Boing Boing Considered Harmful to Shelter Residents


re: Boing Boing Considered Harmful to Shelter Residents

There is actually historical precedent for dynamiting the levees in poor neighborhoods to save other areas. It was done in the 1927 delta floods, actually, dynamiting areas just downriver of New Orleans (in what would now be the Lower Ninth and St. Bernard areas, the neighborhoods most devastated by Katrina) in order to save the city, with the full complicity of New Orleans political and business leaders.

There's a fascinating book on this topic called "Rising Tide", by Louis something-or-other (I don't have it handy).

Dynamiting the levee of the flooded Mississippi in one area relieves pressure on other parts of the levee, and in fact in 1927 communities on both sides of the river upriver from New Orleans stationed armed guards on their side of the levee to fight off nighttime raiders from the opposite side who were intent on blowing the levee on the other side to save themselves.

My concern with moving people out of the shelters prematurely is that right now they have good access to the Internet, which is the only way they are currently able to file for FEMA benefits, look for jobs, look for loved ones, etc. Evacuees who get scattered all over the city may not have such easy access anymore and so I wonder if it would delay them getting back on their feet.