Friday, November 9, 2007

Gearing up for the winter!

This year's SHN board is currently working hard to find placements for the great number of students who have shown interest in this year's trip! We plan on travelling to the Gulf Coast 12/30-01/05 this year.

Shout out to Hillary!

On October 1st, the Louisiana Supreme Court and State Bar Association honored our all-star PIRC director Hillary Exter for all the work she's done and continues to do both within our SHN chapter an beyond! We couldn't be happier and can't think of anyone who deserves this more!

From Fordham Law's press release (

The Supreme Court of Louisiana and the Louisiana State Bar Association honored Director of Student Organizations & Publicity of Fordham Law's Public Interest Resource Center (PIRC) Hillary Exter along with other attorneys and legal services professionals in a New Orleans ceremony on October 1.Ms. Exter has worked alongside over 60 Fordham Law students and faculty as part of each Student Hurricane Network legal delegation to the Gulf Coast since Hurricane Katrina and Rita hit.

In addition to her position with Fordham Law, Exter has done pro bono work with the Advancement Project, New Orleans Worker Justice Coalition, New Orleans Worker Center for Racial Justice, Orleans Public Defenders, New Orleans Legal Assistance Corporation, and the Peoples Hurricane Relief Fund.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Life Goes On...

Life goes on....

but should it? Shouldn't it stop? When something so tragic and momentous happens shouldn't the world stop?

How can everything just go on? Shouldn't we all stop and help pick up the pieces? Help rebuild?

If it were us, wouldn't we want life to pause? Just for a second? When it happens to us, and it will, in one way or another, how will we feel as we see life carry on around us? When the world we knew is gone?

It's been almost two years and our lives goes on, but what's life like back in NOLA? We're so quick to forget; out of sight out of mind. Some didn't even blink. Others saw an opportunity to benefit themselves. But even those of us that did care enough where are we now? Our lives have moved on too.

Life has gone on....but should it have?

Saturday, June 9, 2007

NYC Intern Collaborative

Our friend Morgan Williams is helping create an exciting collaborative for the summer. The aim is to create a network that provides a forum for 2007 NYC summer intern law students to socialize, network, and exchange ideas about social justice work.

The first event is this Tuesday, June 12th, at Sweet and Vicious at 7pm (5 Spring St,

Email to RSVP- indicate law school, anticipated graduation date, and the name of the organization/firm where you are interning this summer. Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Linkin Park Lyrics about NOLA

The Little Things Give You Away

water grey
through the windows
up the stairs
chilling rain
like an ocean

don't want to reach for me do you
i mean nothing to you
the little things give you away
and now there will be no mistaking
the levees are breaking

all you've ever wanted
was someone to truly look up to you
and six feet / underwater
i do

hope decays
generations disappear
washed away
as a nation simply stares

don't want to reach for me do you
i mean nothing to you
the little things give you away
and now there will be no mistaking
the levees are breaking

all you've ever wanted
was someone to truly look up to you
and six feet / underwater
i do

all you've ever wanted
was someone to truly look up to you
and six feet / underground now
i do

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Shout out to Morgan Williams!

A few days ago we heard from Bill Quigley the awesome news that the Louisiana State Bar Association has awarded Morgan Williams its first ever Law Student Pro Bono Award! Morgan Williams is a graduating Tulane Law Student, who was one of the founding members of SHN. Here is a picture of Morgan, speaking at the 2006 Equal Justice Works Awards Dinner in Washington D.C. (while a few familiar faces look on...):
Congratulations Morgan! SHN could never have become as succesful as it is without you and your unflagging commitment. Thanks for being such an amazing leader, and a great friend.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Fordham SHN in Albany for the NY State Bar Association Pro Bono Awards

The New York State Bar Association's luncheon for recipients of the President's Pro Bono Service Award was a fun time, and a great chance to meet up with some of the SHN folks at other New York schools such as Touro, Columbia, Brooklyn, Cardozo and others. Abe, Anamaria, Hillary and Tom were able to make it up to Albany to represent Fordham's chapter of SHN, and we're proud to bring home what we think is a lovely trophy. Below is a picture of the Fordham contingent, plus an enthusiastic 1L from Columbia.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Thank you and Farewell from 2006-2007 SHN Board!

The 2006-2007 SHN Board, Jeremy Pfetsch, Abraham Salcedo, Anamaria Segura and Larry Spollen would like to thank everyone who made this year such a success! Very special thanks to everyone from the Public Interest Resource Center, especially Hillary Exter, without whose
encouaragement and support we wouldn't have had the year that we did. And what a year it was! From collaborating on the SHN National Annual Report, participating on panels at the Equal Justice Works Conference and accepting awards at the ceremony Fall, to organizing student trips to New Orleans and Mississippi over Winter and Spring breaks, from city-wide report back events to bar nights for fundraising, celebrating the Saints' return to the Superdome, and for Mardi Gras, and much more, this year has incredibly productive, and a lot of fun. We are confident that our new board will continue to make a significant contribution to the important work being done in the Gulf Coast, and we look forward to joining the growing network of SHN alumni!

2007-2008 Fordham SHN Board Elected!

Congratulations to the newly elected 2007-2008 Fordham SHN Board: Denise Biderman, Aisha Jones, George Kottas, Janos Marton, Ken Moy and Emilie Williams!
We look forward to handing over the reins to you all, and know that you will do a fantastic job.

SHN Wins NY State Bar Pro Bono Service Award!

We're proud to announce that the Student Hurrciane Network will be the recipient of the New York State Bar Association's President's Pro Bono Service Award for extraordinary pro bono service! Hillary Exter, as ever a huge supporter of SHN, was one of the nominators. The award will be presented at a Law Day event in Albany on April 30th. Anamaria, Abe, Hillary Exter and Tom Schoenherr will travel to Albany to receive the award, along with representatives from various other New York law school SHN chapters. Pictures of the awards ceremony to follow!

Monday, March 19, 2007


Dear NOLA,

Thank you. For no place has left such an impression on me, not the way you have. We have only spent four short weeks together over the past year and three months, but it feels like I have known you forever. I came to you on a whim and now I cannot imagine my life without you. Whether it was slight of hand or twist of fate, in January 2006 I arrived in the land of the Saints, though you looked more like you had been through hell. I went to you to help, but I feel that I got more from you than I could ever put in. Because of you I have met some of the most amazing people and heard unbelievable stories. You have given me so much – experiences, perspective, and friends – how could I ever hope to repay you.

From bulldozing confrontations to intervening in ICE raids to the sham of “first appearances”, you have burned these images in my brain. But more than that, with your culture, style and warmth you have woven yourself into my soul. I know I will see you again NOLA, even if right now I do not know when.

Remember the first time we met NOLA? Sleeping on the cots at St. Luke’s, driving (the long way) to Tulane for showers, the Hope House. It was a chilly January and you looked like a ghost town. There was debris everywhere along the streets, abandoned cars under the highway overpasses, and destroyed houses for miles. You have come a long way NOLA, now the abandoned cars are gone, the streets are cleaner, and there is some rebuilding. But there is much work to be done.

This is not goodbye NOLA, it is “see you later”. I will not forget you and will continue to tell your story so that others will not forget. I will not let them forget. I will send others to come see you because that is the only way to comprehend what has happened to you.

No words can express what I feel for you
Or the impact you have made on me
Lucky am I, to have met you
Admiration is what I have for you

Never will I forget you
Overcome I know you will
Let all come see that you are still here
A spirit like yours cannot be killed.

Until we meet again NOLA take care of yourself.


Sunday, March 18, 2007

Fordham SHN Pictures on Flickr

Hello everyone, and welcome home! I had a great time this Spring Break and hope you all did too. Here is one of the pictures from our trip:

I've posted most of them on my Flickr site. Check them out at:
See you all at school!

Friday, March 16, 2007

The Fourth Amendment Project at the Louisiana Capital Assistance Center

Greetings From the Louisiana Capital Assistance Center ("LCAC")! Today we finished up our fifth and final day of work at the LCAC in New Orleans. Our crew consisted of Fordham students Anamaria, Phil, Jeremy and Deana, as well as two students from George Mason, Andrea and Stefan. Our project has been loosely named the "Fourth Amendment Project." In the words of our supervising attorney on the project Richard Burke, the Fourth Amendment has gone out the window in New Orleans post-Katrina. Not that it meant all that much beforehand, but with the rising rates of violent incidents after the storms, police misconduct seems to have increased to levels above what already existed.

To give some background, every month there are roughly 1,100 arrests in this city. After each arrest, a suspect is given a bond hearing and is detained for up to sixty days if they can't pay. The costs of each arrest are substantial. For taxpayers, the costs are obvious -- something on the order of $23 per day per prisoner. But the real costs are paid by the people picked up in the dragnet. On our first day we were told the story of a wheelchair-bound client who required catheters to use the bathroom, and needed to change them multiple times a day. He was picked up for assault (figure that out?!) and dropped into Orleans Parish Prison ("OPP"), where he couldn't get the medical attention he needed. Eventually he developed a serious urinary tract infection, aggravated by the amount of time he was neglected in the system.

The postscript to that story is not unfamiliar: he was never charged and ultimately was released after suffering pain and humiliation to the benefit of no-one but the sheriff's office. It's a pattern that marks the NOPD's response to the rising crime rate throughout the city: target minor crimes, mostly petty drug possession, to get at the major offenders. Many of the arrests were improper in the first place, and 65% of the cases are never prosecuted. Aside from being an apalling waste of resources, the result is program that overwhelmingly sweeps up young African-American men in the poorest neighborhoods in the city, processing them through a system that produces more offending behavior than it reduces.

The Fourth Amendment Project was really designed to illuminate the costs of this approach by showing how NOPD officers disregard the Fourth Amendment when they arrest people for these minor offenses, and how magistrates reviewing those arrests have abdicated their duty to ensure probable cause existed for the arrests in the first place. Preliminary indications made the attorneys down here at LCAC suspect that some percentage of these arrests were unsupported by probable cause and were not caught by the magistrates, unecessarily increasing the human costs of processing people through the system. Right now in the beginning stages, the project is something of a triage exercise. We have looked through all the arrest reports made available to us for January 2007 to gauge the sufficiency of the arresting officers' affidavits. We've found some pretty obvious deficiencies and, without spoiling the surprise, can pretty safely say that the results have been unsettling so far. Hopefully, the data will prod the NOPD and the Orleans Parish magistrates into changing the way things work down here to the benefit of the entire community -- rich or poor, black or white.

As an endnote, we all feel really lucky to have had the opportunity to get involved in this project and extend the most sincere expressions of thanks and gratitude to the LCAC attorneys both for taking up such a worthy cause, and for letting us participate in it.

--Fordham SHN LCAC Contingent

Look Out Corner Bistro...

Hello from New Orleans! As it turns out it's been difficult to find time to blog while we've been out here, but there will be posts coming very soon! I thought I'd kick off the blogging by celebrating a couple of my favorite food picks from this (and other) trips:

Pick #1: The cheeseburger (medium-rare) from Port of Call, on Esplanade and Dauphine. Served along with the first baked potato I've ever loved, here it is in all its splendor:

I think what really makes it is the mountain of grated cheddar cheese. Also, in case you're curious, the drink on the right is a "Red Turtle," which I see fit to point out because of the recent success of my very own Maryland Terrapins -- GO TERPS! Others were big fans of the "Neptune's Monsoon," Port of Call's version of the Hurricane. If you find yourself in New Orleans, by all means try some Jambalaya, Gumbo and all of those local favorites, but this burger is a must. Sorry to the vegetarians out there!

Pick #2: The fried chicken and jambalaya at Coop's, on Decatur. I've been there an embarassing number of times over the past 4 trips here, but I can't help it - it's so good! The first night here Phil and I dragged Joe Cruz over to enjoy Abitas and our favorite meal, and I think we have a convert. The jambalaya has rabbit and andouille sausage. If you go to Coop's, be sure to look for PickaPeppa sauce to go with your meal (it's not always on the table). I've been known to have it shipped to my apartment (from Jamaica) because I can't seem to find it anywhere in New York. See below:
Pick #3: This is perhaps the most obvious, but a trip here is not complete without beignets from Cafe DuMonde. They pretty much speak for themselves:

And it's open 24 hours. Glorious!

Stay tuned for more updates from the Fordham SHN crew...

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Back to NOLA!

Once again Fordham SHN returns to the Gulf Coast with the full force of 17 students and one PIRC Administrator for Spring Break. This is Fordham SHN's 4th trip to the region since December 2005. The group will be in New Orleans from Sunday March 11th until Saturday March 17th. The students will be working with the Louisiana Capital Assistance Center, the Gert Town Revival Initiative and the Road Home Heirship Affidavit Project (more info about the organizations and projects detailed below). Students will be updating our Blog throughout Spring Break. Visit us again as the week progresses to read about their experiences and accomplishments in New Orleans.

Projects for the Week:

Louisiana Capital Assistance Center:

The Louisiana Capital Assistance Center (LCAC) is a non-profit capital trial organization deeply committed to providing quality legal representation to people facing the death penalty in Louisiana. The LCAC emphasizes client-centered representation, constantly seeks to develop new and innovative advocacy strategies, and also pursues systematic litigation related to issues involving racism in the criminal justice system and lack of funding for adequate representation.

The Fordham students will be reviewing arrest affidavits to determine whether the arresting officer has stated facts that amount to probable cause, rather than stating conclusory allegations

Gert Town Revival Initiative:

The Gert Town Revival Initiative (GRI) is a non-profit, community-based organization in the Gert Town neighborhood of New Orleans whose mission is to “revitalize and develop Gert Town and the adjacent community through programs, activities, and services that will enhance the total quality of life” for neighborhood residents. Founded in 2003, GRI initially was formed to advocate for the successful clean-up of the Thompson Hayward Chemical plant which sits in the Mid-City area of New Orleans and on the edge of Gert Town. The Thompson Hayward site contains 9 million pounds of contaminants according to testimony provided by Rev. Lois Dejean, Executive Director of GRI. During Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, Gert Town took on floodwaters and the physical condition of the Thompson Hayward site worsened. Working with representatives form Advocates for Environmental Human Rights and environmental expert, Wilma Subra, neighborhood residents and GRI were able to determine that much of their neighborhood has elevated contamination levels post-Katrina. In addition, due to the floodwaters of the breached levees, the neighborhood currently has many of the same rebuilding challenges of other New Orleans neighborhoods: much of the population is displaced, much of the housing stock was destroyed and there is little clear direction about how neighborhood rebuilding should proceed.

In the face of these challenges, GRI is working to revitalize this section of the City. One of their major current projects is a property inventory database that will identify and map all properties (parcels) located within the GRI boundaries; inclusive of current ownership information available from public records and blighted, vacant and adjudicated properties.

The Fordham students will be working on the property inventory database. They will be researching the GRI properties, which will involve physical mapping but also research on who owns the properties, and what the current state of the title is. These efforts will go into GRI's work on establishing a land trust.

Road Home Heirship Affidavit Project:

This project is one that SHN developed in conjunction with the New Orleans Legal Assistance Center (NOLAC), a nonprofit civil free legal aid program which has served the Greater New Orleans community and Louisiana for 36 years. This project (which our very own Hillary Exter has been instrumental in developing!) will have students interviewing residents and preparing affidavits to help expedite the process of applying for and being granted funds through the Road Home Program. To enroll in the Road Home Program, applicants need to secure clear title and establish home ownership, which NOLAC and the Fordham Students will be helping them do.

For more information about Student Hurricane Network visit:

Or contact us at:

Tuesday, February 20, 2007


Tuesday - February 20, 2007

It’s time once again to join with law schools across the country in a National Day of Solidarity, which will take place on February 20, Fat Tuesday, or otherwise known as Mardi Gras!
Last year’s National Day of Solidarity was a great success. And this year it is time to once again to remind the public that the struggle is not over, that tens of thousands of people are still being barred from returning to their homes, that hundreds of thousands of displaced individuals still have no way of knowing the condition of their homes and communities, that many others are still unable to enjoy the kinds of social guarantees like basic education and health care that we take for granted. And it is time to once again remind our communities that there are still those that continue laboring to uphold the fundamental rights of these people, and that they, too, need help. So on February 20th, when the focus of a celebrating country inevitably turns to New Orleans as “the greatest free show on earth,” remind your family, friends, colleagues, coworkers, and fellow citizens what’s at stake.

Schools planning events for the National Day of Solidarity:

American University Washington College of Law
Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law
Boston University
Brooklyn Law School
Chicago - Kent Law School
DePaul University College of Law
Fordham University School of Law
FSU College of Law
George Mason University School of Law
George Washington School of Law
Harvard Law School
Howard University
The John Marshall Law School in Chicago
Mississippi College School of Law in Jackson
Pace University School of Law
Seton Hall Law School
Texas Wesleyan University School of Law in Fort Worth
Tulane Law School
University of Akron School of Law
University of Baltimore
UC Berkley (undergrad)
UC Davis
UC Hastings
University of Denver
University of Missouri - Columbia
University of Nebraska - Lincoln
University of Oregon
University of Toledo
University of Wisconsin School of Law
Washburn University
Washington University School of Law
Western New England College of Law
William and Mary

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Mardi Gras Events

Mardi Gras will be here soon and we've got some great events coming up this week.

This Is My Home (a documentary)
Tuesday, February 20th, 2007
12:30 PM
Room 303

Fordham Law School

On Tuesday February 20th, Mardi Gras, over 30 law schools across the country will be holding events to observe a day of solidarity with the residents of the Gulf Coast affected by hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Here at Fordham, SHN and the Housing Advocacy Project will be screening This is My Home, a documentary about the fight for public housing in New Orleans.

Most of New Orleans public housing withstood the hurricane with little or no damage, yet thousands of families are still shut out of their homes and remain displaced across the country. This Is My Home is a tribute to the perseverance of the displaced residents of New Orleans, and it is a call to action for the public, politicians, and all justice-minded people to support their right to return home.

There will be King Cake and Two Boots Pizza.

* * * *
Mardi Gras Celebration
Tuesday Night, February 20th
Location & Time TBA

Come on out and celebrate Mardi Gras with your SHN pals. It will be a great opportunity to re-connect with folks you worked with on trips. Spring Breakers, you can get to know the people you will be working with in March. As soon as we decide where to party we will let you know.

* * * *
An Inconvenient Truth
Thursday, February 22nd
6:00 PM
McNally Amphitheater

Fordham Law School

Along with Environmental Law Advocates, The Environmental Law Journal and Amnesty International, SHN is co-sponsoring a screening of Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth."

The Number of Category 4 and 5 Hurricanes has almost doubled in the past 30 years. With 2005, the worst storm season ever experienced in America just behind us, it seems we may be reaching a tipping point - and Gore pulls no punches in explaining the dire situation. Interspersed with the bracing facts and future predictions is the story of Gore's personal journey: from an idealistic college student who first saw a massive environmental crisis looming; to a young Senator facing a harrowing family tragedy that altered his perspective, to the man who almost became President but instead returned to the most important cause of his life - convinced that there is still time to make a difference.

* * * * *
And don't miss this weekend:
Mardi Gras NYC 2007
A Benefit for the People's Hurricane Relief Fund
Saturday, February 17th
Doors 8pm
The Pussycat Lounge
96 Greenwich St. at Rector

Featuring:(9 BANDS!!!) Hungry March Band (at 12 midnight), The New York Howl, Screaming Females, The Two Man Gentleman Band, Higgins, Man in Gray, The Unsacred Hearts, The Invincible Gods, and Eisenhower. Expect some surprise performances.

Many of us who went on the first trip to NOLA in January 2006 worked with the People's Hurricane Relief Fund. PHRF is an organization that has been successful in getting money and assistance directly to people affected by Hurricane Katrina. Hungry March Band donates their performance and any funds raised in the name of Dinerral Shavers, the snare player for the Hot 8 Brass Band who was recently shot and killed in New Orleans while driving his car.

More info:

We hope to see you at these events.

Monday, February 5, 2007

Call Congress Today!!!

Dear Friends,
Support displaced public housing residents from New Orleans in their fight
to go home. Displaced residents have traveled to Washington, DC to make
their voices heard, but *they need our help *in telling their stories. Please
take *5 minutes *on *Monday, February 5th *to help New Orleanians in their
battle to return home.
*The Situation: *50 displaced public housing residents are in DC for a
Congressional hearing about federally-assisted housing in post-Katrina New
Orleans. Residents would like to have a voice at the table. But, so far,
no displaced residents are on the hearing agenda.
*The Ask: *Call Representative Barney Frank's office and tell them *you want
public housing residents to speak at Tuesday's hearing*. Tell them you do
not support HUD's plans to demolish four of New Orleans largest public
housing complexes. Tell them that you believe in a democracy where
government responds to those affected, instead of leaving them displaced and
*Who to Call: *Call Barney Frank's Financial Services Committee office at:
(202) 225-4247. *Ask for Dominique McCoy*, Chairman Frank's housing
staffer. If she isn't available, please leave a message with the person
answering the phone. Also, if your Representative is on the Financial
Services Committee, please call them and make the same request: find your
Representative and their
Committee assignments .
*Background Information*
- Tuesday's congressional hearing will discuss the Bush
administration's plans to demolish over 4,000 units of affordable housing
instead of allowing residents to return home.
- Before the hurricane, the four projects targeted for demolition had
4,534 units of affordable housing: 1,546 in BW Cooper, 723 in C.J.
Peete; 1,400 in St. Bernard and 865 in Lafitte.
- Plans for Lafitte housing are not yet public, but the other three
projects will be *reduced from a total of 3,669 units to 1,415 units*.
Of these, only 468 will be low-income units and another 426 will be
mixed-income units. The rest will rent at market rate.
- HUD's demolition plans fail to meet the commitment Scott Keller,
Deputy Chief of Staff at HUD, made following a New Orleans City Council
meeting on June 15, 2006, where he stated, "What we are looking for is
one-for-one replacement [in public housing units] across the continuum of
New Orleans."
- Demolishing these
cost more than rehabbing the existing ones.
It will also provide fewer affordable units. More money for fewer
units isn't right for post-Katrina New Orleans.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Fordham SHN Trip Photos on Flickr

It took me far too long to get around to doing this, but I have finally posted photos on Flickr of all three of the Fordham SHN trips - January 2006 and 2007, and March 2006. Check them out, add comments, make corrections if I got any descriptions wrong, and enjoy!

January 2007 - These are all taken by Guy Eddon, and are almost all of Gulfport and Biloxi, Mississippi. Thanks Guy!

March 2006 - These include a couple of pictures of us around town, a few of the gutting crew working with Common Ground, some of the city council hearing on police brutality and some pictures of the ICE raid at Lee Circle, but I was careful to edit out the ones with the faces of the men who were detained. Thanks Abe for a lot of these.

January 2006 - The first Fordham SHN trip! There are a ton of pictures in this set, including pictures of the bulldozing protest and press conference which turned into the bulldozing confrontation in the Lower Ninth Ward, us doing some workers' rights work, hanging out at the Hope House, and a few of us out around town. Thanks again to Abe and everyone else with a digital camera whose pictures I poached.

As always, if you have your own links to pictures from trips, feel free to post them on the blog!


Monday, January 15, 2007

1st Time in Mississippi

Last year as an SHN volunteer I found myself working in New Orleans during the first week of 2006. Realizing that there was still much work to be done, this year I decided to return to the Gulf Coast, but this time to Mississippi.

Once again I found myself in a church, but the dig’s were quite different. Last year I shared a gymnasium with 50 students snoring and squeaking away on FEMA cots. This year at the First United Methodist Church in Gulfport it was cushy couches instead of cots and we were afforded the luxury of cable TV. I schooled Janos (1L) on the Ping Pong table, but Anamaria (3L) proved to be a bigger challenge.

Running on the Beach
We arrived in Gulfport on New Years Day at night on the main drag, so we did not really see any of Katrina’s Damage (We ate in the hippest McDonald’s I’ve ever seen with Kara and Andrew from Michigan). On the morning of the 2nd I woke up to cool weather and beautiful blue skies so I headed out for a run. To my surprise when I stepped out of the church the beach and the gulf were only blocks away and in clear view. Humming “Eye of the Tiger” I headed to the sand for a run.

I ran east on the beach towards Biloxi. It was then that I realized the extent of the damage caused by Hurricane Katrina. Back inland, across the road from the beach, all I saw was destruction. There were mangled trees, sidewalks covered in sand, buildings with the complete first stories missing, and severely damaged houses. It was troubling. Here I was running on the beach more than 15 months since Hurricane Katrina, and it appeared little had been done to reconstruct the damage inflicted by the storm.

Wind & Waves vs. The Flood
The damage I saw in Mississippi was somewhat different than from what I had seen New Orleans a year ago. New Orleans dealt with severe flooding from the breaks and breeches in the Levees. In contrast, in Biloxi and Gulfport it was easy to see the extent of the damage due Katrina’s storm surge. The wind damage in those areas seemed more extreme than in New Orleans. Trees were broken all over the place, dilapidated business signs dangled by wires and windows in taller buildings were still covered in plywood (15 MONTHS LATER!!!!).

Biloxi is a very flat city, and there really are no dunes or seawalls to slow down any onslaught of the gulf waters. Some spots (although few and far between) of town were protected by the large Casinos that are built right up on the beach. There were 2 or 3 story buildings where it was clear that the gulf waters just pounded straight through the first floor. On the third day of the trip we ventured further inland into some neighborhoods, and there you could see the water high mark near the roof of some houses.

FEMA Trailer
On this trip I stepped into a FEMA trailer for the first time. This was a trailer that a family of 3 grown adults had been sharing for almost a year. It was incredibly cramped with only enough space to shuffle from a bench to a bed or to a table. I’m just over 6 feet tall, and looking at the bed (which stretches the width of the trailer), I knew that there was no way I could sleep with my body completely stretched out. I am amazed at the patience and restraint of Gulf Coast residents after living in such tight conditions for over a year. I was happy to leave the trailer back into the fresh air, but I bumped my head pretty bad on the doorway on my way out.

When will aid arrive?
On Wednesday January 3rd we had the opportunity to work with The Mississippi Center for Justice in Biloxi ( With a fantastic group of students from American, Michigan, Kansas and Vermont Law Schools we canvassed some neighborhoods to find out about the assistance residents had received (if they had received any at all). The neighborhood I ventured into was scattered with several houses that had been boarded up since the storm.

There are different phases in the assistance offered by the federal government. “Phase One” was for houses that were located outside of the “flood zone.” Must folks I spoke with were inside the zone, so they only thing the government sent them relating to “Phase One” was a rejection letter. “Phase Two” funding is supposed to be for all residents who apply regardless of their location in our out of the “flood zone.” Everyone we spoke with had applied to “Phase Two” but no one had received a check, or indication any help would be coming soon.

Where did the help come from? The only aid people seemed to talk about was from churches. Anyone with a house that had been repaired gave much praise and thanks to church groups that came from out of state to help rebuild their lives. Everyone was sure to emphasize the fact that the churches that gave them a hand were not from Mississippi.

On the last day of the trip we were privileged to work with the Mississippi Immigrants Rights Alliance ( and the Mississippi Workers Center for Human Rights ( as well as with students from CUNY Law School. Through its work with local immigrants MIRA uncovered a scheme being used by a company running the local McDonald’s franchise to recruit workers from developing countries.

This company would recruit students from Latin American countries to come to the U.S. on a Cultural Exchange Visa. Students were guaranteed to have a place to live and a 40 hour a week job. When they arrived students quickly found out they were being cheated. Money was deducted from their pay checks for unexplainable services, they rarely ever worked a 40 hour week and they were crammed into substandard apartments. Most of the two bedroom apartments lacked heat, and housed up to 8 students at a time. Each of the students were charged $250 every two weeks to live under these conditions. Hearing about the problems the students encountered made me regret my “hip” McDonalds experience earlier in the week.

Final Thoughts
It was good to get back to the gulf coast, and to have the opportunity to see Mississippi. As I indicated earlier, my biggest frustration with the problems in the Gulf Coast is the state that everything is still in. There has been much improvement and reconstruction, but there is still destruction everywhere. It is hard to believe that after such a long time it is acceptable to leave homes and neighborhoods in such dilapidated conditions. I would recommend traveling to the gulf coast to see what it is still like, and to listen to residents and hear their stories. Make sure you try some of the Crawfish Etouffee!!!

Thanks to Guy for the photos!!!!

Sunday, January 14, 2007

MLK Day: St. Bernard Residents Go through Fence, Clean Out Apartments


MLK Day: St. Bernard Residents Go through Fence, Clean Out Apartments
New Orleans, LA (January 15, 2007) –With mops and buckets in hand,
displaced residents of the St. Bernard Public Housing Project will go
through the barbed wire fence surrounding their homes to clean and
rehabilitate them. On Monday, January 15, Martin Luther King Day, the
residents will rally at 12:00pm at Bynum Drugs Store, 3838 St. Bernard
Ave, and then enter the property to restore their homes at 12:30.

"Our homes are livable, and we are cleaning them out so that we can
live in them," says Sharon Seans Jasper, a St. Bernard resident and
organizer. "We will not let the city destroy them."

"The residents who will be cleaning their apartments have current
leases and therefore have a legal right to enter their homes," says
rally organizer Endesha Juakali of Survivors Village. "However, the
police may not honor this right. Therefore public housing residents
will be evoking the spirit of Dr. King on this Martin Luther King

HANO and HUD plan to demolish over 5000 units of affordable public
housing, housing that is desperately needed for families that wish to
move back to New Orleans. In a market where rents have increased
between 70 and 300 percent since Katrina, inflated rents and the lack
of subsidized housing has been a major factor in preventing evacuees
from returning to their homes. Finding private landlords that accept
housing vouchers is extremely difficult, and finding affordable
housing without subsidization is nearly impossible for public housing

HUD's own cost analysis reveals that their plan to demolish and
rebuild will waste taxpayers' money. A recent motion for summary
judgment filed in a current suit to reopen the development (available
at: cites HUD documents that show the
demolition and redevelopment of public housing "will end up costing
over $175 million more than extensively modernizing the developments,
and upwards of $450 million more than simply repairing them would
cost." The motion also argues that the demolitions have racial
implications. "Prior to Katrina over 5,100 African-American families
lived in New Orleans' public housing. Nearly 14 months later, only
approximately 1,000 have been allowed to return. HANO's actions
clearly have disproportionately harmed African-Americans and have lead
to the overall decline in the city's African American population since

Despite overwhelming support for the re-opening of public housing,
HANO and HUD have consistently ignored public opinion and advocated
for its demolition. HANO has received a resounding and unquestionable
"NO!" to their plans from public housing residents at their recent
court-mandated 'resident consultation meeting'. Angry residents
accused HANO of "ethnic cleansing," and told them "being poor is not a

Saturday, January 13, 2007

On the Air

For anyone interested in listening to the radio programs that the SHN was asked to participate in please use the following link:

Then find the show entitled "Building Bridges" on 1/8/07 at 7pm. SHN talks about their experiences in New Orleans during the first 20 minutes or so.

The second show is entitled "Wakeup Call" on 1/10/07 at 7am. SHN discusses during the last 18 minutes or so of the program.

Thursday, January 11, 2007


The Fordham SHN Winter Break Trip was a great success! Thank you to all who helped us out, through participating, helping plan, supporting, attending fundraisers and everything else you all did to make the trip possible! We are very proud of what Fordham students have accomplished over the course of the past year, through their participation with SHN trips and other SHN work!

Just some background about SHN's history -- the organization was formed by law students in the months following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita to address the pressing needs, legal and otherwise, of the people in the Gulf Coast, by matching law students with legal nonprofits for a week. Check out the National SHN site: Last year over 1,000 SHN law students from over 70 law schools traveled to work in the region to work on a number of issues, including criminal justice, housing rights, workers' rights and voting rights, among others. This Winter, more than 500 law students from 28 law schools are heading south to the hurricane-affected areas of Louisiana and Mississippi. Additionally SHN has connected law advocates with displaced residents to help them return home, provided free legal researchers to hurricane-focused projects, educated law students about Katrina-related lobbying efforts, and helped prepare disaster preparedness plans with state bar associations across the country. The organization is completely student-run and organized but we welcome the participation and support from the larger law school community!

Of course, we are particularly proud of Fordham's participation in the SHN's efforts from the beginning. We have been lucky to get a great amount of support from our administration and the Public Interest Resource Center, which have been instrumental in allowing us to send large numbers of students down to the Gulf Coast for our student trips. This Winter we had 29 students volunteer in New Orleans and Mississippi, in various capacities. Nineteen students, 2 professors and one administrator worked on the Katrina Gideon-Interview Project. The Project had teams of students, supervised by attorneys, working on cases in the Criminal Justice system. The work was done in conjunction with Professor Pamela Metzger of the Tulane Law Clinic, and involved working with the Public Defenders' Office, studying cases, interviewing inmates and making phone calls to their families, identifiying cases that have been lost in the system, and generally bearing witness to the situation in Louisiana's criminal justice system. Other students worked in any number of other capacities: three students worked with the People's Organizing Commitee, both doing physical labor such as gutting houses, and also conducting outreach and documentation related to housing issues; a couple of students worked with the New Orleans Workers' Center for Racial Justice, conducting outreach related to wage and hour claims and also acting as legal observers during interactions between workers and the police. Four students went to Mississippi and worked with the Mississippi Center for Justice and the Mississippi Workers' Center for Human Rights. This work involved conducting surveys of residents regarding their knowledge of and experience with various federal and state homeowner recovery programs, as well meeting with local officials and attorneys, and a visit to the state capitol to meet with Mississippi state legislators to discuss the issues facing residents of the Gulf Coast in MIssissippi's efforts to rebuild. Though the trip was only one week there are so many stories to tell! We really hope that this blog will give students, professors, administrators and friends a forum to share their stories. .

Welcome to the Fordham SHN Blog!


This Blog has been set up for all those who have participated on any of Fordham's SHN trips to the Gulf Coast. We encourage each of you to share your thoughts, experiences, comments and photos.