Can you help?
Katrina's victims are desperate for shelter
September 1, 2005
It's been reported that hundreds or perhaps thousands
have lost their lives to Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans and surrounding
areas. A tragic situation with new fears more will die as deadly
water borne illnesses brew around survivors wading through the
filthy waters that now fill their beloved neighborhoods. Their
homes lost, no shelter, weary from the storm there seems to be
no relief in sight for those who survived Katrina's blow. Is there
any hope for a warm meal, shower and a place to recover from the
tragedy anytime soon?
Online message boards like Craigslist and
Nola.com are flooded with offers from citizens to hurricane victims
to use their bedrooms
in their homes, vacation homes, buildings, jobs and money, it's
clear that so many people across the U.S. are ready and willing
to help their neighbors in need. It's a grass roots effort in the
making. This is a real disaster that tugs on your heart and opens
A worthy effort but sadly as I have seen so many
times in the past as a network news consumer reporter these kind
could be lending
themselves as prey for scam artists who might peruse these sites
looking for an opportunity for free housing or simply to rob someone.
These scammers can sound charming on the phone, provide references
(who are really their accomplice in the next state), and can even
show up at the door with plenty of legitimate looking id that is
nothing but fake.
Selling themselves as legitimate
victims only to take advantage of a well meaning family. To see
just do one internet google search using the terms "hurricane" and "scam" and
the results you'll get are plenty of links and reminders of how
kind people have been taken advantage of by a select few who look
upon tragedy as a means to implement a crime.
As a citizen, I have
thought hard about how we might be able to address this problem. I've
been emailing people all over the place from realtor associations
and churches to the Red Cross.
Unfortunately, I keep getting the same responses ranging from no
responses to "I too want to donate a room in my house but
am not sure how to do it."
Thus, I believe that it is imperative,
that if you know anyone, a local or state politician, influential
business owner or better
yet state or national figures and organizations you should contact
them. Including key people at the Red
Cross, FEMA and other legitimate
organizations, that can spearhead putting together an organized
plan, a website etc. to match families who want to provide housing
and shelter. Perhaps initally people can be bussed to a local govt
owned building where local officials and volunteers can match host
families. Housing agreements need to be drawn up on the spot and
signed and liability issues addressed.
This project is especially
important because in the real world taking a stranger into your
home is no simple matter. In fact it
could be dangerous. Your personalities may clash, they might wreck
your car, or worse they may stay forever. I am not up to date or
even know if there are any "how to evict a refugee from your
upstairs bedroom because they have stayed over three years and
don't want to get a job" laws.
Aside from hurricane Katrina
Landlord/tenant issues are a huge problem in the U.S.
these things not to be cynical or harsh after all it's sad that
we even have to think this way. Open your hearts and your
doors, but protect yourself and be smart.There is an IMMEDIATE
need for organized housing and now is the time that you can call
your contacts and get something going that is organized will
I do want to share with you, that I will be opening
my doors to a family I found through a church in New Orleans. And
Bita and her husband Alvin are now housing her husband's entire
11+ member family who evacuated their homes in the New Orleans
The family has lost their history and everything
they owned. Now they are facing the reality of saying goodbye to
trying to adapt to a new city, get a job, clothes and a place
their own in a city they never dreamed would be their future.
Even through all the family has gone through, and will go through
the months ahead, but after watching the continuous media coverage
on the devastation Katrina has caused, it's hard to admit they're
actually one of the lucky ones.
Afshin P. Pishevar, Esq. Law Offices of A.P. Pishevar & Associates,
Rockville, Maryland. See PishevarLegal.com.