Skip to comments.Katrina Volunteers Feel Unwanted (Guess Who's Causing the Problems? The Answer is in Bold)
Posted on 07/19/2007 8:21:06 PM PDT by Pyro7480
GULFPORT, Miss. - They gave Greg Porter the key to the city for his volunteer work after Hurricane Katrina. Then, he says, they showed him the door.
Porter received widespread acclaim including an award from the White House for founding God's Katrina Kitchen, a faith-based relief operation that has served more than 1 million meals to the storm's victims and the volunteers who helped them.
But the roadside-tent operation has been forced to move for the second time since September, because of what officials say were neighborhood complaints. Unable to find a new home, Porter expects to close God's Katrina Kitchen at the end of the month.
With the government overwhelmed in Katrina's immediate aftermath, tens of thousands of volunteers from across the country poured into Mississippi and Louisiana and performed heroic service. But now, some are finding their help is no longer welcome.
Porter said he suspects officials in this casino resort town regard his soup kitchen as an eyesore and an uncomfortable reminder that the Gulf Coast is far from whole nearly two years after the storm.
"I think it bothers them to face the fact that for a lot of people, it's not over yet," he said.
Mark Weiner, executive director of Emergency Communities, said the organization served meals to Katrina victims in Louisiana's St. Bernard Parish until local officials raised objections. Feeling unwelcome, the group moved to the devastated Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans in January.
Weiner blames the group's departure on a culture clash between parish officials and the many "hippie-type" volunteers. "I think they had an easier time working with Christian organizations than secular groups," he said.
Similarly, free medical clinics staffed by volunteer doctors have run into resistance from local physicians struggling to resuscitate their practices.
Jennifer Knight operated a clinic in Long Beach, Miss., that treated more than 22,000 patients with the assistance of roughly 500 volunteer doctors before she closed it last year. Knight worried about siphoning away patients from local doctors.
"We've got to figure out how the community can help itself," she said.
Last week, the state Medical Licensure Board's executive committee voted to allow Mississippi's two remaining volunteer clinics staffed by out-of-state doctors to remain open as long as Mississippi remains under a state of emergency.
Many volunteers say they have met with nothing but gratitude from those they have helped. Mark Jones, director of Biloxi operations for Urban Life Ministries Relief, said he has not heard complaints from neighbors. But his group is feeding only volunteers at its camp in a sparsely populated neighborhood.
God's Katrina Kitchen is one of the few still regularly serving free meals to residents.
Porter, 48, of Penrod, Ky., drove to Mississippi after the storm hit, and started grilling hamburgers in Pass Christian. The one-man operation quickly grew into a bustling food distribution center. At its peak, in March 2006, the kitchen was serving 3,500 meals a day.
Before long, however, neighbors started to complain about noise from the group's religious services, while restaurant owners saw it as competition for their customer-starved businesses.
Last year, Porter had to move from Pass Christian to nearby Gulfport to make room for a condominium project. Pass Christian gave him a symbolic key to the city but made only a "halfhearted" effort to keep him, Porter aid.
Then, Gulfport officials recently denied the group's request to stay at its current site for another year, citing complaints that the free meals were attracting vagrants. Porter must move by the end of July.
Jesse Lewis, 81, of Gulfport, eats there several times a week on the folding tables set up under a red-and-white striped tent. The retired Los Angeles Police Department employee owes $287 a month on a federal disaster loan.
"I could probably still make it" without the kitchen, he said, "but it's a really big help."
Some of the kitchen's visitors were not directly affected by Katrina and were just looking for handouts, Porter conceded. Now, he says, the kitchen serve meals only to residents who can prove they registered with the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
That hasn't satisfied his neighbors.
"The kitchen brought nothing but trashy people from across the tracks," said James Hebert, 68. "We need to get these people out of here so we can get back to normal."
City Councilman Neil Resh said: "They're doing fine work, and I appreciate what they do, but they had a year to find somewhere else to relocate."
Porter thought he found a new home for his operation, at a church in Long Beach, but city officials rejected that plan on Tuesday, citing complaints from residents who didn't want the food kitchen near a day-care center.
"The disappointment for me is that so many families still need our help and we're not going to be able to give it to them," he said.
Bar none, the various church groups out-performed the various NGA’s and Fed agencies in the effectiveness of their aid. The Salvation Army, and the disaster teams from the Presbyterians, United Methodists, Roman Catholics, etc were far ahead of the Red Cross and FEMA.
Cudos to the good guys (and gals).
I recently drove along part of the Mississippi coast. The only beachfront businesses for several miles were Waffle Houses and Casinos. Lots of still vacant lots. There were several new high end condo developments surrounded by nothing.
I thought you were going to say “Catholics”. In a way, they are blaming all Christians, right?
Interesting observations. Do you think it’s the possibility of hurricanes that are keeping business awaya? I doubt it! LOL!
New word for FR — like hugh for huge! LOL!
There was a pole sign in the shape of a large M where a McDonalds had been - the whole block was still empty. I suppose there isn’t enough activity yet to attract them to rebuild. I counted at least 3 Waffle Houses, however, facing the beach, all built up above grade level, so they must require lower traffic counts.
Its been almost two years ago. If they aint getting along better on their own by now then they weren’t doing any better before.
I don’t see them blaming Christians. Do you?
When the volunteers start complaining, this gig is about up. Thank God!
Katrina? Wasn’t that like in the ‘90s?
I get the feeling that the folks with low IQs stayed behind, save for the welfarists who followed government cheese, and those with an IQ over 110 found a reason to move on -an act of God good and hard. I do not expect a huge infusion of IQ points into the Katrina devastation anytime soon.
As in all economic recoveries, it's a mixed bag, and there are different issues in different parts of the Mississippi coast (New Orleans is in a world of its own of course).
Some parts of the beach area contained the old mansions that survived previous storms, but are now gone. Those properties may stay vacant for a long time yet.
Some beach front property owners are undoubtedly still fighting with the insurance companies/mortgage companies on getting their insurance funds to rebuild.
Some properties, such as downtown Gulfport, were already having problems because the consumer businesses had moved north to the I-10 freeway area and beyond.
Also, in Pass Christian, where the businesses got wiped out, if you drive in about two blocks, you will find that many businesses have set themselves up in temporary buildings, and are back at work.
Many folks seem to have taken their insurance funds, and/or sold out to the casinos, and are buying property further inland, driving up the costs for property in the country.
New rules on rebuilding in the beach area (such as having homes elevated on (12 ft I think) piers, adds significant costs to rebuild on those empty lots.
Coupled with the rebuilding costs is the to-be-expected actions by the insurance companies to get their pay-out funds back as soon as possible. Our home insurance costs went up about $360 a month, and we live inland about 15 miles. I can only imagine what the cost down at the beach areas are now.
On the flip side, the fact that numerous condos are going up, indicates that people want to live on the beach (no surprise there I guess), and while that will bring back the taxable income base, it may hold off rebuilding in the vacant lots for a number of years.
The recent opening of the new Bay Saint Louis bridge will help with tourism, as will the opening (late this year maybe) of the new Ocean Springs bridge.
Bottom line, the Mississippi Gulf coast is coming back. I'm sure everyone down here would like it to come back faster, but that's life.
An act of God good and hard?
Your post is really, really sad.
You should be ashamed of having posted this.
There will be mostly condos and retail establishments along the Beach. That is what the reality is.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.