This post was originally intended to be one of those snarky things, where I tell the families of the dead in California, the people in New York without power "They should have known better than to live there".
Why would I be so callous?
Because when I tell people in the US that I live in New Orleans, that's the kind of thing they tell me.
But after reading about the 6000 families that will be cut from FEMA housing aid at the end of July, I had another, perhaps wiser perspective.
Point 1) Note that the 9th Ward of New Orleans was odd demographically in that a majority of the people there owned their own homes, yet over a third were under the poverty line, and 14% were unemployed. This numbers seem to contradict themselves, but can be explained by the fact that many extended families lived under the same roof.
"There was a lot of extended families in New Orleans," Jacks says. "And the mother and father lived there, and their older children lived there, and their children, and so you had all these family groups under one roof. Well, the father or the mother who owned the home were really, technically, the only ones who were eligible for disaster assistance."
Point 2) If we look back to the 1995 Chicago Heat wave, we see that approximately 600 people died in the heat. An additional 739 died the following week. Most of these were elderly, who had no air conditioning, and were often hesitant to even open windows and doors at night because of crime.
Eric Klinenberg: Hundreds of Chicago residents died alone, behind locked doors and sealed windows, out of contact with friends, family, and neighbors, unassisted by public agencies or community groups.
Klinenberg goes on to theorize that many of these elderly died because of the dissolution of the family unit. In earlier days, Mom and Pop also had Aunt Millie, Uncle Rufus, Cousin Kermit, Grandma Moses, and plenty of extended family all within walking distance, if not the same neighborhood, street, or even house. Because of this scattering of the extended family, many elderly people felt that they would be an imposition on their families, and rather than doing that, they died a lonely, horrible death.
It routinely gets that hot in New Orleans, but we never have the catastrophic death toll of 1995 Chicago.
If Klinenberg is right, then it's partially due to the fact that New Orleans has an incredibly strong extended nuclear family.
So, what about Katrina?
Well, we've shown that in New Orleans, the family unit is still intact, as is the extended family unit. That's not the case in most of the United States.
During the evacuation, many of the relief agencies intentionally separated these families, and to this day, many parts of these extended families are scattered across the country.
Now, because of the strength of the extended family unit in New Orleans, many Katrina and Flood victims will be without money to live on, or even a place to live. They will be made homeless through the carelessness and bureaucracy of the federal government.