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.