Occupation at St. Bernard Housing Project

Media coordinator: Soleil Rodrigue / survivorsvillage [at] gmail [dot] com / 504.717.7324
St. Bernard Resident: Stephanie Mingo / vmingo [at] bellsouth [dot] net / 504.529.3171

Occupier: Bork / 202.246.7665


Occupation at St. Bernard Housing Project

New Orleans, LA (January 15, 2007) –Members of Mayday NOLA (maydaydc.mahost.org), a housing rights advocacy group, are currently occupying undisclosed buildings in the St. Bernard Housing Project. Mayday NOLA has committed to stay in the buildings until an agreement that is satisfactory to a board representative of the residents who requested the action is reached with HUD and HANO.

“It is our intention to continue to occupy St. Bernard in protest until the residents are satisfied that their demands have been met. On this we are not negotiable,” says a letter from the occupiers. “Any negotiation must be done with representatives of the public housing residents whose homes are being threatened and who have requested that we undertake this occupation.” The occupation was planned to coincide with a Martin Luther King Jr. Day protest in which public housing residents will go through a fence separating them from their homes, enter their apartments, and begin to rehabilitate them.

“Our homes are livable,” says Sharon Seans Jasper, a St. Bernard resident and organizer. “We will not let the city destroy them.”

“We support the actions of the occupiers and hope that they will help convince HANO and HUD to meet the demands of displaced residents,” says rally organizer Endesha Juakali of Survivors Village. “Mayday NOLA has been willing to take these actions, but it was HUD, HANO, and the Mayor's Office that created the necessity for occupation.”

HANO and HUD plan to demolish over 5000 units of affordable public housing, housing that is desperately needed for families that wish to move back to New Orleans. In a market where rents have increased between 70 and 300 percent since Katrina, inflated rents and the lack of subsidized housing have been a major factor in preventing evacuees from returning to their homes. Finding private landlords that accept housing vouchers is extremely difficult, and finding affordable housing without subsidization is nearly impossible for public housing recipients.

HUD’s own cost analysis reveals that their plan to demolish and rebuild will waste taxpayers’ money. A recent motion for summary judgment filed in a current suit to reopen the development (available at: justiceforneworleans.org) cites HUD documents that show the demolition and redevelopment of public housing “will end up costing over $175 million more than extensively modernizing the developments, and upwards of $450 million more than simply repairing them would cost.” The motion also argues that the demolitions have racial implications. “Prior to Katrina over 5,100 African-American families lived in New Orleans’ public housing. Nearly 14 months later, only approximately 1,000 have been allowed to return. HANO’s actions clearly have disproportionately harmed African-Americans and have lead to the overall decline in the city’s African American population since Katrina.”

This action is timed to honor Martin Luther King Jr. who said “Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored.”