NOLA: From the Overpass to the Underpass

As those of you reading my recent campaign blogs, newsletters or Kick-Off press may have noticed, I’ve been asking folks for something a bit unusual for a congressional candidate this Holiday season – that being Belief in yourself and your fellow man.

Everywhere I go now, I challenge good people to do good for others and start making the world a better place one neighbor at a time so that all may benefit without waiting for a burdensome political process to do the job for us. My staff is no exception, and proved to me recently that neighbors in need come from all over.

Some of my staff and supporters volunteered in New Orleans last week and their report back on the conditions there should make all of us give pause and realize the human toll of our broken political system. They said the most obvious sign of the devastation that remains were the hundreds of people who were living under the overpasses. We all remember the images of those thousands of people waiting on those overpasses to be rescued during the storm, some of them waiting for days without food and water.

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Now they wait under the overpasses for some real help and human dignity that still hasn't arrived more than 2 years after Hurricane Katrina.

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The following is from an email from my campaign manager, Leanne Powell:

The weather is surprisingly cold here this week. The overnight temperatures are in the 40's and 50's. I guess I shouldn't have been shocked, but I was when early in the morning I went by an underpass and there were several hundred people sleeping under it. People were lined up row after row it almost didn't look real. It was unbelievable Larry. I went by later in the day and then there were just a couple of dozen people there and the blankets and other belongings were stacked in huge piles. When I asked about the situation, they said many of the people sleeping there in the evenings were working by day.

This is the working poor trying to rebuild their lives, but affordable housing is almost impossible to find now. Rent prices have in many cases doubled due to the high demand and low supply. The only affordable housing seems to be in the FEMA trailer parks which populate parking lots and empty spaces all over town…

Leanne and others were volunteering in the Lower Ninth Ward at the homeowners’ association, working with a wonderful group called NENA.

What is NENA?

The Lower Ninth Ward Neighborhood Empowerment Network Association (NENA) was established in the aftermath of Katrina to play a lead role in rebuilding New Orleans’ Lower 9th Ward.

Organized and controlled by residents of the Lower Ninth Ward, NENA addresses not only the immediate recovery needs created by the storm’s destruction, but also the institutional neglect and disinvestment that plagued the neighborhood long before Katrina. NENA works with current Lower Ninth Ward residents, displaced residents living in other parts of New Orleans, and the broader diaspora who want to return to the neighborhood.

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Our staff took many of the non-perishable foods and toys collected from the caring residents of North Carolina’s 8th down to the Lower Ninth Ward to try and make the Holidays a little brighter for those folks. What they saw was a need so great, they were moved to spend every day helping out at the NENA office.

Just some of the problems facing returning residents they saw were speculators snatching up family homes, people that had lost contiguous land they had cared for over the years under a city adoption program prior to Katrina now just being auctioned off on the Internet for back taxes and victims of unscrupulous buy-out offers left with no recourse. NENA tries to help returning residents avoid the pitfalls, make the best decisions and keep the Lower Ninth Ward an owner/occupied family neighborhood, as prior to Katrina the neighborhood had one of the highest home ownership rates in the city.

I’m proud of NENA, my staff, volunteers and all those that joined our Believe campaign donating to our neighbors in the Ninth, and I’m proud of each of you that contribute your time to help a neighbor in need. If you’d like to help the residents of the Lower Ninth move out from under the overpass and back into a family home, call NENA at (504) 373-6483 to see what you can do. Or help a needy family in your own neighborhood in honor of neighbors everywhere this time of year.

I hope each of you will consider doing something good for your fellow man, not just this Holiday season, but as part of your due diligence as a good person that cares about the future of this Nation.

Thanks and God bless.


BlueNC is an amazing place

With amazingly good people. I know we can make a difference here at home and in the world.

Please recommend over on Kos too if you get a chance.

Thanks friends.

Larry Kissell
Democratic Candidate for Congress
North Carolina's 8th District

Someone Working...For a Change

Larry Kissell
Democratic Candidate for Congress
North Carolina's 8th District

Someone Working...For a Change

Please recommend at Kos

Thank you Larry. This post brings the whole disastrous performance of our government into stark relief - in a way I hadn't fully grasped before.

Thank you for all you do.


hurricanes hit us too

I recall Floyd back in 98(?) and the whole eastern side of the state had severe flooding. Recovery was slow but I don't recall any of the shameful scenes we saw with Katrina(and Rita after). We cannot forget these people, and we cannot forget those who insulted humanity by their inaction. We in North Carolina could receive the same treatment if a hurricane hits us before the end of the Bush/Cheny disaster.

Thanks, again, Larry, for being the kind of candidate who actually thinks about THE PEOPLE.

Larry, I applaud you and your campaign.

December 2005, my wife and I were a part of a group that went to NOLA the week before Christmas. We were a part of a team of about 65 (mostly) men and women, and did a lot of work in and around Metairie. My wife and I were with a group of nine that worked with a men's shelter, cleaning and repairing their building. This shelter worked with homeless men, and those who were addicted to alcohol and drugs. Sad to say, but they were getting busier three months after Katrina than they were before the storm.

Though we did not work in the Lower 9th, the 8th, or Chalmette, we drove through them. The most memorable/shocking part of our "tour" was driving through the Desire project. I was driving the van, and next to me was the director of the men's shelter- "Pastor Mel." Pastor Mel, a native of NOLA and African-American, made the comment while we were in Desire that four months prior, a van full of white people would not have driven through the projects. That wasn't the shocking part; what shocked me was that nowhere was anyone to be seen. The streets were deserted, the houses unoccupied, and the residents gone. It was like a ghost town.

Before we left we also drove around the North Shore area. Leaving Metairie, we crossed a small bridge, turned a corner, and saw a huge house, three Mercedes in the driveway, and no sign of any damage. Disgusting.

Good for you to take up their cause! I hope that the citizens of N.C. will continue to support our brothers and sisters in NOLA. I know that many have come here for a new begining, but there is still much work to be done.

These pics are so startling

and they feel so shameful for us as a nation that I just don't even know what to say. My heart hurts for them. Thanks, Larry, and everyone who does this work. Hope lives in good people who bring attention wrongs so they can be set right again.

"They took all the trees and put them in a tree museum Then they charged the people a dollar 'n a half just to see 'em. Don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you've got till it's gone? They paved paradise and put up a parking lot."