Filed Under:  Environmental, Health & Wellness, Local, News

HANO residents in 9th Ward still suffering after Isaac

29th October 2012   ·   0 Comments

By Zoe Sullivan
Contributing Writer

Evella Pierre lives in the last house at the end of Agriculture Street in the area where the Desire Project used to stand. Now it is called “The Estates” and is privately owned and managed with Housing Authority of New Orleans oversight. No trees shelter the street in front of her home from the mid-day sun. Pumpkin lights the size of half dollars adorn the railing of her porch and faux cob webs cover the bushes on either side of the steps. A full sofa and matching easy chair occupy most of the space on the porch. “Nobody don’t know we back here,” Pierre told The Louisiana Weekly, describing the community’s isolation. This isolation may be one reason the residents’ travails with rain and neglect have gone unresolved until now.

“If it rains, the water’s going to come under this door,” Pierre explained, pointing to her front door. Stocky, with close-cropped hair and glasses, Pierre is in her late 60s and earned her living doing domestic work. The low wages associated with that profession forced her to move into The Estates two years ago because she could afford the rent.

Instead of leaving during Hur­ricane Isaac, Pierre stayed home. As a result, she says she was able to use quilts to absorb some of the water that flowed into her apartment during the lengthy storm. In spite of these efforts however, Pierre told The Louisiana Weekly that the baseboards in her living room are pulling away from the wall, and light is clearly visible between the door and its frame.

According to Malcolm Suber, Outreach Coordinator for CDC 58:12, which provides support services to residents of The Estates, all 425 housing units in the community suffer problems similar to Pierre’s. Suber estimates that 1,500 people live in these homes.“The unemployment rate here is over 50 percent,” Suber said, “and this is one of the most isolated communities in New Orleans.” Suber told The Louisiana Weekly that CDC 58:12 discovered the situation shortly after beginning to provide services to the community on October 1. He said he and his colleagues quickly realized that Isaac had only exacerbated an already uncomfortable situation.

The Estates are managed by Interstate Realty Management, Co., which did not respond to email and phone inquiries from The Louisiana Weekly in time for publication.

Dorothy Jefferson has been living in The Estates for three years. Jefferson’s adult daughter shares her home and looks after her. Jefferson said that she’s been having issues with water coming into her home since before Hurricane Isaac. After the hurricane, the management company sent people to cut out chunks of damaged drywall in Jefferson’s home.

“The holes are causing insects to come into my home,” Jefferson told The Louisiana Weekly. “The air conditioner is working harder, so the bills are sky-high.” Jefferson said that in addition, heavy machines that were brought in to speed up the drying process were noisy also sucked up electricity. “It was very inconvenient ’cause it was loud and noisy, and you couldn’t sleep with it in your house,” Jefferson explained.

Suber alleges that other residents have also had issues with rats as a result of similar holes and that some families have had to take children to the emergency room due to respiratory problems. He surmises mold growing in the damaged walls prompted these visits. HANO responded to an inquiry on the health impacts of the damage stating that only one resident had approached the agency with a related medical complaint.

A HANO statement issued to The Louisiana Weekly on the topic said: “The Administrative Receiver has reviewed reports from the management company and those of his own staff who conducted on-site inspections, and has determined that the management company allowed more time than was necessary to pass before implementing permanent repairs and has ordered that a repair schedule must be received by HANO by the end of the day Friday (10/26) and that repairs must be completed by November 30. The management company faces severe sanction if that schedule is not met.”

A community meeting on the Oct. 23 yielded a small turnout. Jeffer­son told The Louisiana Weekly that she had no intention of accepting apathy. “What I plan on doing is going door to door and asking people why they’re not coming out…rats and mice coming into your homes, but you’re not doing anything about it.”

HANO told The Louisiana Weekly that it would “continue to monitor the progress of repairs weekly, and ensure that all resident concerns and problems are addres­sed immediately.”

This article originally published in the October 29, 2012 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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