Monday, April 03, 2006
New Orleans Habitat for Humanity and FEMA
3/22/2006, "FEMA refuses to extend contract, despite original written confirmation"
Dear St. Bernard Volunteers:
I address you this afternoon with an extremely heavy situation. Despite FEMA’s approval for the expansion of the Volunteer Base Camps, Camp Premier in St. Bernard and Camp Algiers in New Orleans—an approval which dates back to January—they have reneged two times already and are crippling a necessary vein of support. The physical space and the materials are all accessible to the vendor of Camp Premier—all he needs is a signature of approval to extend the camp past the original termination date of April 11th. Due to the Stafford Act, the contract for expansion cannot be authorized by anyone but the two men at the very top of the ladder, Michael Jackson with the Dept. of Homeland Security and David Paulison, Acting Director of FEMA. FEMA has yet to sign their approval.
They have already announced that they are canceling the transportation for the St. Bernard Project starting this Sunday, March 26. They have not approved an extension of the contract, so we must all try and be self-sustaining as far as that is concerned. Therefore, I ask all of you to try and secure buses for the entire week—should you have already contracted them—to help shuttle your team from the Base Camp to the worksites. I ask that those individuals who are flying in to rent a car, for which there will be secure parking, for this same purpose. This is one more example of FEMA withdrawing critical support from where it is needed most, and it foreshadows a failure on their part to extend the contracts for the Tent Cities.
From the start, our role in St. Bernard’s much-needed recovery has been recruiting volunteers, while St. Bernard’s Department of Recovery coordinated the volunteer teams and FEMA provided food and lodging. As of January 12, FEMA had given us a written commitment to accomodate 2000 volunteers in Camp Premier until June 30th. Both New Orleans Habitat for Humanity and the St. Bernard Parish Government have been engaging generous and willing volunteers ever since. All of you have risen to the occasion, spending large amounts of money on transportation and equipment and making personal and work-related sacrifices.
I am well aware that many of you have been planning for some time. We cannot allow this to happen.
While the St. Bernard Parish Department of Recovery is making arrangements for secondary accommodations, this negligence on the part of FEMA is abhorrent and unacceptable. The region will not recover without the support of thousands of volunteers, all of whom need lodging that was promised by FEMA. The tremendous number of volunteer man-hours provided by the presence of these base camps saves the federal government an incalculable expense. We must compel FEMA to follow through on their commitment.
I urge you to contact your representatives in the House, Congress and the Senate and advise them of the dire situation: FEMA is blocking the road to recovery in St. Bernard and Orleans Parishes! I also invite you to join us in blitzing FEMA with emails and phone calls:
FEMA’s general operator: (202) 566-1600
I thank you for support in this and all matters. Please do not respond to my email account, as I have no capability of addressing all of your concerns on this issue, nor the power to change this decision alone. We must work together!
Special Projects Coordinator
New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity