The Sept. 8 Metro article "D.C. Is Destination or Detour to Survivors" discussed the District's laudable efforts to provide school enrollment to children who were displaced by Hurricane Katrina. But what about the city's other homeless children?
For more than a decade, the District has opted out of a federal program that requires schools to enroll homeless children even when they are unable to provide proof of residency, birth certificates, transcripts or immunization records. The program would provide the District with $250,000 a year to respond to these students' needs, including transportation, tutoring, counseling and school supplies. These funds would be useful while evacuees are being housed at the D.C. Armory and others are temporarily living with friends or family.
The lives of the children who survived Katrina are unstable and uncertain -- characteristics of the lives of most homeless children. The District graciously has offered to provide the Katrina evacuees with educational services, but what will it offer to future homeless students?
Education Staff Attorney
National Law Center
on Homelessness & Poverty
Humans have a passion for inhabiting places that cannot sustain their systems or lifestyles. New Orleans is just one example. Natural hazards such as hurricanes, floods, landslides, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions are as normal to the life of our planet as a hiccup or a yawn is to our own lives. It is our lifestyle that turns these natural hazards into disasters. We have become the cause.
Katrina showed us that we cannot anticipate what the worst-case scenario is for such events. But we know which areas are prone to these hazards, and when we inhabit these places, we put ourselves in harm's way. Let's learn a lesson from Katrina.
Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao announced emergency grants on Sept. 7 to support Katrina's victims in four states. The grants will provide up to $191 million for temporary jobs that will bring paychecks to thousands of dislocated workers for helping to clean up, rebuild and repair their communities, she said.
Even though Texas had little hurricane damage and is hosting about 250,000 evacuees -- many of whom are being relocated to other states -- it is getting as much as $75 million. Louisiana, with the most damage and more than 400,000 evacuees in Baton Rouge alone, is eligible for $62.1 million. Mississippi gets $50 million and Alabama $4 million.
But all 254 counties in Texas may apply for funds for activities well beyond cleanup and restoration. The money can be used to "establish temporary transition centers in or near the greatest concentration of evacuees; provide crisis and financial counseling, and provide training to evacuees that may settle in Texas."
Based on the funding, you'd think Texas was hit hardest by Katrina, or that Texas was the only state outside of the hurricane-ravaged area assisting evacuees. Nothing could be further from the truth. Taxpayers should be told why Texas has been so favored with funding.