New Orleans, 14 years later

New Orleans, 14 years later

Fourteen years ago today, the largest man-made disaster in U.S. history struck New Orleans. Hurricane Katrina laid waste to the poorly constructed flood barriers that guarded the city, and 1,500 people lost their lives as a result. With the storm as a backdrop, journalist Lolis Elie reflects in The New York Times at what’s been lost –  and the way the city’s culture is changing through gentrification:

Outsiders (who used to only visit) are putting down roots, tilting the delicate balance between those residents who move to the city because they love it and those who naturally embody the city’s culture because they live it. About a decade ago, 77 percent of New Orleanians were born in Louisiana and had spent most of their lives there. After the town recovered from Hurricane Katrina, however, those numbers started to shift. The city has become less populous, less black, more white, richer at its historic center and poorer in many surrounding neighborhoods.In 2018 some storied areas saw housing prices rocket by nearly 30 percent in just half a year. 


Eldery Americans are going hungry
Nearly 1 in 8 Louisiana seniors don’t have enough food to eat on a regular basis – the highest rate of “food insecurity” in the nation. That’s according to a recent Feeding America study that looks at hunger among people over 65, and found the highest prevalence in Southern states.  Laura Ungar and Trudy Lieberman of Kaiser Health News explain in Time

That’s 5.5 million seniors who don’t have consistent access to enough food for a healthy life, a number that has more than doubled since 2001 and is only expected to grow as America grays. While the plight of hungry children elicits support and can be tackled in schools, the plight of hungry older Americans is shrouded by isolation and a generation’s pride. The problem is most acute in parts of the South and Southwest. Louisiana has the highest rate among states, with 12% of seniors facing food insecurity. Memphis fares worst among major metropolitan areas, with 17% of seniors like Milligan unsure of their next meal.


An updated vision for higher education
The state Board of Regents has approved an updated master plan for public colleges and universities, marking the first major rewrite of a plan that was first adopted in 2001. The original master plan created admissions standards and a formula that distributes state dollars between various campuses. The AP’s Melinda Deslatte reports that the new plan keeps those parts of the plan, but adds a new focus: 

The plan looks for ways to eliminate equity gaps between white and minority students and help adults who long ago left school to get a skills-based credential or other educational training. It says Louisiana must find ways to advance educational attainment for nontraditional students, youth in foster care and inmates who will eventually leave prison and need to find work. An estimated 56% of jobs will require education beyond a high school diploma in 2020, but only 44% of Louisiana adults aged 25 to 64 have a skills-based certificate or college degree, according to Regents data.


The ‘working homeless’
Cokethia Goodman is a mother of six in Atlanta who earns $9 an hour as a home health aide. She paid her rent on time, but that didn’t matter when her landlord decided to sell the house she had been renting to take advantage of rising home prices. Soon, Goodman and her family became part of the ‘working homeless.’  As The New Republic’s Brain Goldstone explains, it’s a growing phenomenon. 

Hidden within the world of homelessness has always been a subset of individuals, usually single parents, with jobs; what’s different now is the sheer extent of this phenomenon. For a widening swath of the nearly seven million American workers living below the poverty line, a combination of skyrocketing rents, stagnant wages, and a lack of tenant protections has proved all but insurmountable. Theirs, increasingly, is the face of homelessness in the United States: people whose paychecks are no longer enough to keep a roof over their heads.


Number of the Day
$388 The average amount Louisiana’s K–12 public school teachers spend each year on school supplies for which they are not reimbursed. (2011-12 data, adjusted for inflation to 2018 dollars, Source: Economic Policy Institute)