Informing Redevelopment After Hurricane Katrina

colist at colist at
Sat Oct 1 12:56:35 CDT 2005

[ed:  Mario requests more information.]

From: "Mario Cristaldo" <mcristaldo at>

Can we get a list of the Insurance companies refusing to pay for the 
claims. That way we can run an effective campaign against them.

colist at wrote:
> <><><><><><><><><><><><><><>
> This is a COMM-ORG "colist" message.
> All replies to this message come to COMM-ORG only.
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> [ed:  Lisa is responding to Scott's story below.]
> From: "Lisa Ranghelli" <lisa at>
> I am angered by Scott Reed's stories of families who paid for hurricane
> insurance and whose insurers are refusing to pay claims based on the
> rationale that floods were the cause. Are any of the major organizing
> networks or others challenging the insurance companies on this? I think
> there would be a lot of people willing to call their insurers and
> threaten to cancel policies if claims are not honored.
>> [ed:  I am starting to see a number of messages about community 
>> organizing approaches to rebuilding New Orleans, so I will start a 
>> new thread here.]
>> From: sreed at
>> Last week Mary managed to get through check points to see her home in 
>> Ponchatrain Park, where she has lived for 65 years since 
>> African-Americans first had a chance to own homes in New Orleans. She 
>> fainted. The home, which had been the center of her extended family, 
>> a place where children and grandchildren always came back for 
>> holidays, had been submerged in water for more than a week. She was 
>> able to salvage one thing, a photo of her grandchildren that for lack 
>> of space she’d hung just below where the wall hit the ceiling. Mary 
>> called her insurance agent who asked her how many feet below water 
>> was the house. She replied that he ought to know since his company 
>> wrote the policy. The agent told her that despite paying for 
>> homeowners insurance and a hurricane rider for 65 years, she would 
>> get nothing because the damage was due to flood not Katrina. Mary 
>> says she wants to go home, not alone but with family, neighbors and 
>> the people from her church who helped her survive so much and gave 
>> her life meaning.
>> Last week PICO families and congregations in Louisiana put out a new 
>> call for help. They asked leaders and organizers from across PICO 
>> National Network to come to Baton Rouge to support a massive effort 
>> to help now-scattered New Orleans families come together to have a 
>> voice in rebuilding their city. New Orleans has long been at the 
>> heart of PICO. Since the mid-1980’s clergy, community leaders and 
>> organizers from New Orleans have deeply shaped the culture of our 
>> network. In so many ways PICO is a product of what we have 
>> collectively learned from New Orleans: the every day fluency with 
>> power, race and politics; the African-American church tradition; the 
>> unparalleled love of place and understanding of how important it is 
>> to sustaining strong families.
>> Thirty volunteer leaders and organizers from California, 
>> Massachusetts, New Jersey, Florida, Michigan, New York and Colorado 
>> began arriving in Louisiana on Wednesday. We came with the 
>> understanding that with all the talk of creating a new New Orleans 
>> and "reconfiguring the demographics of the city" rebuilding is not 
>> just about jobs and homes but also a matter of creating hope, 
>> reconnecting community and rescuing one of the greatest cultural 
>> treasures in America, a vibrant African-American cultural center.
>> With another powerful hurricane striking the Gulf Coast, Louisiana 
>> faces overwhelming needs and limited capacity to rebuild itself. As 
>> we write this, water is once again pouring into the 9th Ward of New 
>> Orleans; families displaced by Katrina are yet again on the road 
>> searching for shelter. Before Katrina, Louisiana, one of the poorest 
>> states in the nation, failed to meet the basic needs of many of its 
>> citizens. Now hundreds of thousands of people are living in shelters, 
>> still awaiting urgent health care, counseling and the basic help they 
>> need to rebuild their lives.
>> As PICO leaders and staff have met with displaced families we have 
>> heard over and over that the same gross failure to protect families 
>> from Katrina continues to undermine relief efforts. Today at a church 
>> shelter in Baton Rouge we met with families who described living in a 
>> shelter without mental health services and health care for 
>> traumatized victims. They told us of their anger at FEMA, Red Cross 
>> and others for repeatedly failing to keep promises to provide 
>> services and of failing to provide any answers of when temporary 
>> housing would be available. These are families from a community 
>> abandoned by the government before Katrina struck, left without the 
>> ability to get out of the city, sent to a shelter that could not 
>> protect, finally evacuated to place they could not chose and now 
>> living in a shelter without any answers about what comes next.
>> Amid the fear and chaos of the past three weeks we have also been 
>> awed by the commitment of families and congregations in Louisiana to 
>> come together to rebuild the state and return home to New Orleans. 
>> The ties that bind families to each other, to their faith communities 
>> and to place are powerful in this region. In so many ways and from so 
>> many people we have heard the common cry that despite everything 
>> "we’re going home."
>> PICO organizers and leaders visited St. Anthony’s Catholic Church in 
>> Baton Rouge to meet with 300 Vietnamese families displaced from New 
>> Orleans. They told us that they wanted to return home to New Orleans, 
>> and that under the leadership of their pastor they were actively 
>> organizing to obtain materials and coordinate skilled craftsperson to 
>> rebuild their church and homes. We heard stories of people moving 
>> back to their water logged houses in order to not lose their jobs. 
>> The message of these families, who originally came to America as 
>> refugees, was that they want to go home to their jobs, churches and 
>> community but need federal help.
>> When asked to raise their hands if they intended to return to New 
>> Orleans, almost all those at St. Anthony’s and other shelters in 
>> Baton Rouge raised their hands.
>> Many families who want to rebuild tell the same story we heard from 
>> Mary of calling their insurance companies and being told that despite 
>> paying for homeowners insurance and hurricane coverage over many 
>> years they will not be compensated. Homeowners fear losing their 
>> homes to foreclosure and renters are afraid of being evicted from 
>> houses they lived in for 30 years. Although many families want to 
>> remain close to New Orleans, FEMA is not even asking families where 
>> they would like to live, but is instead moving forward with massive 
>> concentration of trailers far from public transportation and job 
>> opportunities.
>> The central lesson of the death and destruction in New Orleans is 
>> that without power people perish. We know that these disasters are 
>> man made; the Katrina autopsy will show a string of political 
>> decisions that exposed those without money and influence to 
>> catastrophic danger. So much of what we witnessed violated the 
>> cornerstone of human society that every life has intrinsic value. As 
>> PICO has responded to the aftermath of Katrina we have acted on the 
>> understanding that justice is not just a matter of putting the right 
>> policies in place or involving the community in planning. Doing right 
>> by those who died and lost everything means insuring that families 
>> have the power to define the agenda and control the outcome; it means 
>> equipping people to reorganize themselves for power at a time when 
>> everything that held together their families and communities has been 
>> upended.
>> On September 12 PICO brought the voices of New Orleans and Louisiana 
>> families and pastors to Washington, DC, holding a national press 
>> conference and obtaining commitments from members of Congress that 
>> displaced families would have a say in federal relief and recovery 
>> plans.
>> On October 4 PICO LIFT is holding a statewide action meeting in Baton 
>> Rouge to begin rebuilding Louisiana so that families can go home to 
>> their communities. PICO LIFT leaders are calling on Congress and 
>> local and state officials to work together with displaced families to 
>> make sure that all families receive immediate relief that protects 
>> their health and welfare. PICO LIFT is fighting for federal resources 
>> and policies that insure families the right to return to New Orleans, 
>> to project a vision for the future of their city and to receive the 
>> jobs and economic opportunities that come from rebuilding the city.  
>> PICO LIFT is talking with hundreds of displaced families to get their 
>> input into a comprehensive plan for relief and recovery.
>> PICO federations from around the nation are traveling to Baton Rouge 
>> to support Louisiana and take back the message that Congress should 
>> do right by the Katrina families and not finance the rebuilding of 
>> Louisiana and the Gulf Coast by cutting the safety net that so many 
>> families depend on at times of need. Across PICO we are asking "what 
>> are the levies that could break in our communities and who would be 
>> left on the roof tops."
>> In the early days after Katrina struck PICO encouraged people to make 
>> contributions to the Red Cross and others providing immediate rescue 
>> and relief; we also created a hotline for congregations to send 
>> resources to churches in Louisiana that are sheltering families. We 
>> continue to encourage direct support for sheltering communities.
>> For those who want to support efforts by Louisiana families to 
>> organize themselves to return home and have a voice in rebuilding the 
>> city and state, we have created a Rebuild Louisiana Fund. You can 
>> learn more or contribute to this fund by contacting John Baumann at 
>> jbaumann at (501) 655-2801, 171 Santa Rosa Avenue, 
>> Oakland, CA 94610. You can also donate online at 
>> (select Louisiana 
>> Interfaiths Together). All funds donated to the Rebuild Louisiana 
>> Fund will be used to support work by Louisiana Interfaiths Together 
>> to reach out to and organize families in the state to participate in 
>> relief and recovery decisions.
>> PICO National Network has worked since 1972 to give families and 
>> congregations a voice in decisions that affect their communities. 
>> With one million families, one thousand faith communities working in 
>> 150 cities and 18 states, PICO is one of the largest and most diverse 
>> grassroots community efforts in the United States.
>> Louisiana Interfaiths Together (PICO LIFT) is a state wide umbrella 
>> for six PICO federations: All Congregations Together-New Orleans, 
>> Working Interfaith Network-Baton Rouge, Bayou Interfaith Shared 
>> Community Org.-Houma Thibodaux, Congregations Organizing People for 
>> Equity-Lafayette, Delta Interfaith Network-Lake Providence, Hope 
>> Ministries-Point Coupee Parish.
>> Sincerely,
>> Scott Reed, National Director of Organizing, PICO National Network
>> If you received this message from a friend, you can sign up for PICO 
>> National Network.
>> ___

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