Their view: Katrina victims still need help

More than four years have passed since disastrous Hurricane Katrina ripped through New Orleans, and the images of demolished buildings and homeless families have faded from our memories. But the nightmares are still a reality for the more than 14,000 families in New Orleans still living off Disaster Housing Assistance Program vouchers and the countless internally displaced persons.

Unfortunately for those 14,000 families, the DHAP vouchers expire this month. According to Amnesty International, the government estimates about half of those families could be eligible for Housing Choice Vouchers, allowing them to live in Section 8 housing. But what options remain for the families who do not qualify for Section 8 housing?

“Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of his family, including food, clothing, housing, and medical care and necessary social services,” according to Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

If more than 7,000 families lose their homes, the United States would be failing to uphold this clause.

Now is not the time to place disaster relief in New Orleans on the back burner, but it seems many Americans have pushed it to the back of their minds and consider it old news.

“I think it’s definitely not on everyone’s minds anymore just because the shock value is gone now,” said Hannah Nusz, co-director of the Alternative Breaks program.

The program directors have decided to send a group of students to help clean up and build housing in New Orleans this winter break.

Alternative Breaks has gone to New Orleans in the past but had no programs there last year. This year, Nusz said the program felt as if something was missing.

“When you’re rebuilding communities, rebuilding homes and peoples’ lives, that takes time,” Nusz said. “It’s definitely not something that just happens in a few months.”

Nusz is completely right. The current quagmire that will leave many Katrina victims without housing is proof that reconstruction and rehabilitation efforts in New Orleans are not yet finished.

If only there were other forms of assistance victims could turn to when federal aid runs out. Groups such as the American Red Cross, Oxfam America, Louisiana Disaster Recovery and the NAACP Disaster Fund have helped since the hurricane hit. At least one of these organizations, Louisiana Disaster Recovery, is still offering support, but the thousands of families who risk losing their homes at the end of this month need a larger relief effort.

Alternative Breaks does more than assist Katrina victims; it also provides a new perspective for the students involved. If more organizations still showed the interest Alternative Breaks is investing in the problem, New Orleans could make great strides forward.

The above column was originally published Sept. 29 by the University of Kansas’ University Daily Kansan. Content was made available by Uwire.