Cape Katrina

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camped

[Katrina evacuee thanks Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney for providing emergency housing at Camp Edwards on Cape Cod [Pierre Lascott / Flickr]

A week ago Otis Air Force Base, on Cape Cod, was on the short list for shutdown. Today it is a makeshift community of more than 200 evacuees from New Orleans. Now that the victims of Katrina are dry and fed they are eager to make the transition from itinerants to residents. The question is how?

Cape Cod is famously known as a tony resort area but for those who live there year round it is anything but. Many on the Cape lead hardscrabble lives. Jobs are in short supply and the housing scenario isn’t much better. What quality of life lay ahead for these newcomers? How is the Cape preparing to extend its already tapped resources? In this hour we want to understand the plight of Katrina victims through the lens of their new hometown. In talking with Cape Cod community leaders, journalists, and residents we hope to get a broader understanding of how the rest of the US is absorbing the thousands of people displaced by Katrina. Ideally this show will also provide a context in which we can talk about race, poverty, local politics — all of the issues that have surfaced as the waters have receded.

Allison has posted on our site , in regards to housing Katrina victims, “Are others prepared for how long-term the need is? And how much people need the feeling of stability after being dislodged so abruptly?” These are the kinds of questions we want to ask, and answer, on this show.

Evan askes if we’ll hear a few stories from people who are there. We are collecting tape at Camp Edwards so that you can hear the evacuees’ stories first hand.

Reverend Jeffrey Brown

Reverend Jeffrey Brown has been appointed by Govenor Mitt Romney to be the “Mayor” of Camp Edwards. He is pastor has of Union Baptist Church in Cambridge and one of the founders of The Boston Ten Point Coalition.

From Chelsea’s pre-interview notes

The Reverend Jeffrey Brown

The Reverend Jeffrey Brown in the Open Source Studio, 9/20/05 [Brendan Greeley]

I was at Camp Edwards when the plane touched down. My wife was with me and when we entered the plane we saw 100, very tired, people. Some of them were still in wet clothes. Many of them were scared and apprehensive. Many of them had never left their neighborhoods, they have always been around black folks. When they were on the plane they had no idea that they were headed to Massachesetts. Once they found out they were afraid that Massachusetts was nothing but white people. all of that dissipated once they saw me and my wife.

There are some folks who are struggling with post traumatic stress disorder, but many of them are thinking about taking that next step. What surprises me is their resilency and self-sufficiency. Already they are tiring of the handouts.

Sean Gonsalves

Gonsalves is a staff writer for the Cape Cod Times and a syndicated columnist.

From Chelsea’s pre-interview notes

People are starting to say “We are dry, we are fed, we are living on a military base.” They are working people, they are not use to getting handouts, they want to work and find permanent housing.

The evacuees fall into three groups:

1)Folks who have family and are looking to go there

2)Folks who want to stay until they know if they can go back to Louisiana

3)Folks who like it here so far and are content to make the Cape their home

I worry about their quality of life longterm. There is not a thriving southern culture on the Cape. The black communities are very small. When I talk to these people, who are so resilient and surprisingly upbeat, I feel for them because I’m thinking, ‘It’s not going to always be like this.’ But they surprise me because the overriding sentiment is, ‘after what we’ve just been through, we can handle anything. We’ve been black in the south, we can deal with a couple of cranky cape codders’

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  • From the phone calls, it sounds like most listeners of this show are New Englanders, so I thought I’d just point out for everyone else–

    Cape Cod is not exactly a “town”– it is 15 of them, has 230,000 people, and it’s about 60 miles long. And I’ve heard the “hardscrabble” comment before, and it’s true that living on the Cape in the winter is no picnic. But when you look at the numbers, this just doesn’t bear out. MA Poverty rates by county: Barnstable is safely under the state average; it’s the rural Western counties which are suffering more (not to mention Suffolk). How about unemployment by county? It’s been worse, but in recent years it’s been better than the state average. Hampden (home of Springfield) and Bristol (with Fall River and New Bedford) have for the last decade had higher unemployment than the state average.

    Granted– and I wish I could find these numbers– housing on the Cape is pretty much capped.

    Surely someone’s made mention of one the towns on the “elbow” on the arm of the Cape — Orleans.

  • Chelsea

    Jon,

    Thanks for making the distinction. I have changed “town” to “area.”

    Poverty rates are one thing but the jobs that are available to people once the tourist season ends is a probem. (5,000-7,000 pepople come to the Cape each summer for work but they leave after Labor Day.)

    I’ve spoken to the Executive Director for the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce. She reports that there has been an unprecedented outpouring from the community. Filene’s and other department stores are offering work but the high cost of rent and access to transportaion remain problematic. It’s one thing to have money coming in but one’s quality of life is another concern. These are some of the issues that community leaders are working on.

  • Indeed– regardless of the numbers, it’s very difficult for 200 people to go find work, with their homes practically lost, without knowing where they’ll end up going. Looking forward to listening to the program.

  • joel

    As usual, one must be careful what is read into numbers. The adage saying that one can find in statistics the evidence wanted for any particular arguement is worth considering. The unemployment and poverty statistics to which JonGarfunkel linked in his piece above, if considering the entire population of the Cape (Barnstable County,) is including a very large group of people who should not be considered in the problems of the poor or working class looking for employment. They are not “poor” in that they live in nice homes and live moderately in comfort or they live in “McMansions” and “Trophy Homes” and live in excessive comfort. They are either retired with fixed, moderate incomes or have larger, independent incomes. This group is significantly larger than in the average community. Cape Cod communities, in this regard, are atypical. Remove these populations from elegibility to consideration regarding the survival of the working class (except that, of course, of needing services, thereby providing opportunities) and the numbers in those columns of unemployment and poverty data will be vastly different.

  • Well, I was not trying to make any sort of case, I was just trying to reconcile the numbers with perceptions. Yes, I am aware that the Cape has the oldest population of any Mass. county– and the numbers bear that out– but aren’t retirees excluded from unemployment counts? Needless to say, I think the overall point we ought to agree on going into tonight’s program is that the Cape doesn’t feel like the South (as Sean pointed out), it’s certainly nothing like New Orleans, and it’s also atypical for a New England community.

    Here’s the latest from today’s Cape Cod Times. The Massachusetts Nonprofit Housing Association is working to place evacuees anywhere in the state, should they want to remain here– and not just the Cape.

  • joel

    JonGarfunkel – I understand. Yes, the retirees are not included among the unemployed, but I don’t think they are exluded from the employed. They, the independent wealthy and the employed are all considered “not unemployed,” so, I believe, the unemployed number is small compared to everyone not unemployed even though many of the latter are not looking for work. We need a comparison only among the working class of the Cape, many of whom are having a hard time as everyone here knows.

    Cheers.

  • I’d like to take this opportunity to extend my gratitude to the Mayor and his flock for all the great things they are doing for our fellow citizens from Louisiana down on the Cape. You are showing our best to people from the Gulf Coast.

    Thank you Reverend Brown!

    Cheers

    fc

  • alicea

    I’d like to ask – Is there anything that folks on the base need at the moment? I don’t have a job or home to offer, but my husband and I grow organic vegetables and will be happy to drive some produce down to the base.

    Thanks for airing this program!

  • Sue

    Reverend Brown, you are one in a million. Thank you so much for stating the obvious–that we live in an increasingly crowded world, and if we can’t get past the surface problems that seem to define everything, then how are we to continue? Primal things. We have the equipment to get along, but do we have the ability?

    Also, a quick program question: I notice that some of the responses to this program began around noontime. When is this program actually taped?

    Thanks.

  • Chris & co. — great show! Enjoyed listening to the voices of the evacuees directly. That’s what radio does best.

    Joel– not to beat a dead horse, but in general if you tell the Labor Department that you’re not looking for work, they don’t count you as unemployed.

    Sue– this show was announced last week, Thursday I think. The producers invite people to comment before the show. In this case, which is not so unusual, the pre-show conversation zero in on trivial matters that don’t arise in the show. As more people feel comfortable contributing, and more comments come in, we (the producers and the community) are going to need to scale this a bit better to avoid confusion.

  • joel

    JonGarfunkel – Yes, so those who say they’re not looking for work, even though they don’t work and have few other resources, swell the numbers of the “employed,” making it look better than it is. I have not had an income requiring me to deal with the IRS since 1971 (nor have I labored for much more than love, mostly volunteering, since 1964 when I quit the sea as a profession, at which time I had a nice nestegg, though I rarely worked more than a few months per yer, and since which time inflation has reduced that nestegg to less than one tenth in value) and, though I am almost 74, I am not yet eligible for social security, yet I am not classified as “unemployed” and am not counted as “needy” in that sense.

  • joel

    P.S. Which (the above), in conclusion, is as it should be. Since I am content and find life interesting, even exciting at times, and satisfying in spite of the frustrations with much of “the state of the world,” I fall into a category in some ways similar to the wealthy and pensioned. If, otherwise, those of us not employed but not seeking employment did seek it, competition for the workers down here on the Cape would, I think, be untenable. There are many on fixed incomes who increasingly may need to seek additional resources.

    Sorry to get off on such a tangent on Cape Cod rather than the good people from New Orleans, but many elsewhere, having their own problems, have no concept how this peninula is overwhelmed with people and the resulting sparsity of tenuous and decreasing resources.

    Cheers.

  • capegirl

    I’m late to this because I heard the show while driving back from the airport in Providence. I’m a lifelong New Yorker who transplanted to Cape Cod five years ago. Last night I returned from three days in Chicago. I love the Cape, but every time I go back to NY and during my time in Chicago I was reminded how white the Cape is. Personally, I miss the diversity of NYC and loved it in Chicago. I think it would be really good for the soul of the Cape if African-Americans and other people of diverse heritage displaced by Katrina settled here, but I think it will be hard for them. I agree with Reverend Brown that this is a chance for all of us, but the people who have most to learn/gain are those who are already here, whether they came over on the Mayflower or spend August in their trophy homes or are washashores like I. There’s a lot of racist ugliness beneath the surface, despite the apparently warm welcome extended to those in need. Once they begin to move out of Camp Edwards and into the community, that ugliness may rise to the surface and add to their wounds.

  • joel

    It seems as if one of the interviewees, Tattoo or Tat2?, has been deported from Camp Edwards to San Franscisco with mate and dog according to local forenoon newscast.

  • David

    Joel: Where did you see that? I’m very curious because on our show — as I guess you heard — he was more eager to live here than most people who actually DO live here.

  • capegirl

    I heard it, much to my dismay, on WZAI, as the local part of Morning Edition, the very station on which I listen to OpenSource. I remembered him from that broadcast and it made me sad, because he seemed very positive, enthusiastic, committed to staying on the Cape and re-establishing his business here. Stuff happens, I guess. I hope he and his companions find a place that works for them. It’s hard to build community and people who have been ripped from their lives don’t always have a soft landing. The people who experienced Katrina and its aftermath saw and smelled and lived things unimaginable to those of us who are comfortably at home. I think of it as something like living in a war zone, and I am sure there will be lots of PTSD and other adjustment difficulties. There but for fortune go I. At least that’s the way I see it.

  • tat2

    Hi my name iis tat2 and because iam not that computer savvy, i haven’t even seen this but now a volunteer in nola is helping me so i would like to finish the REAL story

    … when we first got there we were treated like gold but the people at the base really were a little more authoritative then was necessary.

    First please understand that we come from a city that has alcohol 24/7 so after Katrina there was difficulties with more people than myself. I just happened to be in the system in the past and althouth there was me.

    Because of the publicity “Hurricane” was the press pooch, when we got there we did benefits-

    we fitted in even though I have had a harder life and I might be “outspoken” the lady from the Dept. of Agriculture and another lady from the Rescue pets or whatever started telling me that because vwe ewre displaced Hurricane needed a home- this is after several K9 officers spoke to me about giving him up.

    After that they started to say that Hurricane was a rescued pet and that his shots etc were not finalized so after I had words witha state trooper that demanded that i put my cigarette out and i resonded by asking himn whay was i under arrest and what did i do- they put me in a car and put me in a cell for 12 hours- true i might have had a couple of beers at Grumpy’s the bar that did a BBQ benefit for Katrina ( no proceeds to me).

    We have down all kinds of benefits, we met the Govenoe, Sen. Ted Kennedy and many other officials.

    Keeping it up front, I am not the average citizen, those of you that have read my story know that iam not ” mainstream”. So when they said my dog had to stay I said “no way” and in very different ways, however inappropriate. You have to understand that the dog saveds my life, I wasn’t giving him to anyone. He would not be with anyone- there was complaints about him- a 135lb German Shepard that would not be with anyone but me or KJaren- not even her really.

    But the military and “officials” wanted him. After we were “deported” (which really was i was outta here”) i had the $ to pay the plane fair and even someone that seen us on Boston Globe today showed Boston for 3 days. there is two sides to every story.

    Many people thought I got a fu*ked deal- and it’s true, i had applied to the Chamber of Commerce, had a banker to back me for Falmouth’s only tatoo shop since it had just been legalized, i passed the bloodborne pathnogens, everything was going good until they started about Hurricane.

    After we went to San Francisco, WE LEFT, nothing more. Hurricane as I said would not be around anyone but me. Maybe his aggression or protectiveness was why the K9 officers wanted him, but it was to be his death sentence.

    When we went to California he went to doggie jail because he growled at the wrong person, not bite, mind you just growled. He was still tripping from the storm he didn’t like know one but me. the second time he went to doggie jail they castrated him. the third they killed him- maybe i should have let the military, police etc keep him but it’s been my experiences that if you are not with connections, family with connections. money or family with money you get stuck out. how many stories have been written about those of us that have nobody during the storm? i had hurricane i wasn’t to give him up. that’s the true story, maybe i might not communicate in an appropriate manner, maybe i might have had a bad past but no matter what i ever done i always stand by my friends and Hurricane was my best friend. Any questions or comments please direct to tat2exiled@yahoo.com

    How many stories in the media get twisted, or covered up-we never got anything more than most- we did the publicity to help. I sold a sweatshirt signed by the evacuees at the 1st Monday night Football Game on Ebay and donated it to the SPCA.

    As far as the experiences, well my ol’ lady was attacked by 3 guys in the dome- where were the officials then? PTSD destroyed my relationship with the mother nof my child “Katrina Storme”, I never got help for the 14k (SBA estimate of my property loss and I lost the only friend that believed in me, my mom died… so before everyone wants to form an opinion–hear all the facts.

  • tat2

    Hi my name is tat2 and because i am not that computer savvy, i haven’t even seen this but now a volunteer in NOLA is helping me so i would like to finish the REAL story

    … when we first got there we were treated like gold but the people at the base really were a little more authoritative then was necessary.

    First please understand that we come from a city that has alcohol 24/7 so after Katrina there was difficulties with more people than myself. I just happened to be in the system in the past and although there was me, because of the publicity my dog “Hurricane” was the press pooch, when we got there we did benefits.

    We fitted in even though I have had a harder life and I might be “outspoken”. The lady from the Dept. of Agriculture and another lady from the Rescue pets or whatever started telling me that because we were displaced residents my dog Hurricane needed a home- this is after several K9 officers spoke to me about giving him up.

    After that they started to say that Hurricane was a rescued pet and that his shots etc were not finalized. So after that I had words with a state trooper that demanded that i put my cigarette out and i responded by asking him why was i under arrest and what did i do- they put me in a car and put me in a cell for 12 hours- true i might have had a couple of beers at Grumpy’s the bar that did a BBQ benefit for Katrina ( no proceeds to me).

    We have down all kinds of benefits, we met the Governor, Sen. Ted Kennedy and many other officials.

    Keeping it up front, I am not the average citizen, those of you that have read my story know that I am not ” mainstream”. So when they said my dog had to stay I said “no way” and in various ways, however inappropriate they may have been. You have to understand that the dog saved my life, I wasn’t giving him to anyone. He would not be with anyone- there was complaints about him- a 135lb German Shepard that would not be with anyone but me or Karen- not even her really.

    But the military and “officials” wanted him. After we were “deported” (which really was “i was outta here”) i had the money to pay the plane fair and even someone that had seen us in the Boston Globe today showed us around Boston for 3 days. there are two sides to every story.

    Many people thought I got a raw deal- and it’s true, i had applied to the Chamber of Commerce, had a banker to back me for Falmouth’s only tattoo shop since it had just been legalized, i passed the blood borne pathogens, everything was going good until they started about Hurricane.

    After we went to San Francisco, WE LEFT, nothing more. Hurricane as I said would not be around anyone but me. Maybe his aggression or protectiveness was why the K9 officers wanted him, but it was to be his death sentence.

    When we went to California he went to dog jail (read: the pound) because he growled at the wrong person- not bite, mind you- just growled. He was still “tripping” from the storm, he didn’t know anyone but me. The second time he went to the pound they castrated him. The third time they killed him- maybe i should have let the military, police, etc. keep him, but it’s been my experience that if you are not with connections, money or family connections, you get stuck out. how many stories have been written about those of us that have nobody during the storm? i had Hurricane- i wasn’t to going to give him up. that’s the true story, maybe i might not communicate in an appropriate manner, maybe i might have had a bad past, but no matter what i have ever done i always stand by my friends, and Hurricane was my best friend. Any questions or comments please direct to tat2exiled@yahoo.com

    How many stories in the media get twisted, or covered up? We never got anything more than most- we did the publicity to help. I sold a sweatshirt signed by the evacuees at the 1st Monday night Football Game on Ebay and donated it to the SPCA.

    As far as other experiences, my ol’ lady was attacked by three guys in the Superdome. Where were the officials then? PTSD destroyed my relationship with the mother of my child “Katrina Storm”, I never got help for the 14k (SBA estimate) of my property loss, and I lost the only friend that believed in me, my mom died… so before everyone wants to form an opinion–hear all the facts.