I started this blog to keep my church, friends and family updated on my year volunteering in Katrina recovery with the Presbyterian Church (USA). I've now signed on for a second year working in disaster recovery and another year living in Mississippi. It's getting good....

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

"I don't have any answers, but I can tell you what WE are doing...."(10/24/06)

That's all I have heard the past two days as I have struggled through the Harrison County Affordable Housing Summit. About 75 professionals from the public, private and non-profit worlds gathered at the most extravagant casino on the Gulf Coast to talk about how no one has any real solutions to the housing problems facing this community in the rebuilding process. You see, the politicians and newspapers like to talk about how the coastal communities are well on their way through the rebuilding process- with big developers and stable businesses moving back in. There is a work boom going on! Hurray Gulf Coast! Everything is great! Nevermind that all the folks who have come back to work can't afford to live here and that there is no public transportation to speak of, so if they live outside the cities, they can't get to work without a car, but they can't afford gas, and if by chance they actually owned a home in town prior to the storm and actually have the deed to said house, they can't afford their skyrocketing insurance rates any longer, if their insurance company still exists and is still writing policies, etc, etc, etc. No one is building affordable housing. No one is planning transportation. People are living in storage units. Really. And I am not just talking about these problems as if they only impact those at the bottom of the pay scale- I am talking about teachers and firefighters who can't afford to live in the communities in which they work but can't afford to commute either. The problem is growing. And the leadership doesn't have the answers.
Don't get me wrong, it was great to see so many concerned parties get together for a giant brainstorm session, but if you've ever met me, you know that I like to get things done. We didn't get anything done this week. I know that there are no easy solutions. I didn't expect to come out of there with a plan, but it is so frustrating to talk around all the problems and have no action items to take home at the end of two very long days. We did gather some useful information about government aid programs, pull in plenty of networking time and made a few good contacts with other agencies working in the Gulf. Ah, hope! Oh and we managed to find the back way into the casino's very posh pool, which I fully plan on taking advantage of when the heat returns in the spring.
Tomorrow, we're back to trying to save the world....or at least our little piece.

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