Thursday, August 09, 2007

NPR on life in a FEMA trailer park

NPR, along with the New York Times, seems to have the best job of giving Katrina recovery consistent coverage. Often, the stories come from Steven Inskeep or John Burnett, but yesterday, Alix Spiegel had a piece called, "Stuck and Suicidal in a Post-Katrina Trailer Park." It explores the desperation of living in a Mississippi FEMA Trailer park - the higher-than-normal suicide rates, the drug abuse, the animal cruelty, the depression. This, of course, comes on the heels of the FEMA trailer formaldehyde scandal. (I wrote last week about the revelation that FEMA trailers often contain toxic levels of formaldehyde. Acadiana's The Independent also had a good story on that scandal yesterday. H/T Voices of New Orleans' Colleen.)

It's easy to look down on a drug user, but do remember, not everyone turns to such outs - there are the innocents who are stuck living with the more violent residents. Even if you want to dismiss those who commit crimes, I would still ask you to remember those caught in the crosshairs, and take compassion on them. Here are some excerpts from Spiegel's story, and a link to the rest. The link, by the way, also contains a picture gallery (where the picture above comes from).

The first morning of my visit to Scenic Trails, I was walking the path between some trailers when I bumped into a man named Tim Szepek. He was young, tall, and solidly good-looking. I asked if I could speak to him for a moment and he agreed. We found a spot of shade beneath a tree, and I started with what I considered a casual warm-up.

"What's it like to live around here?" I asked.

"Well," he replied, "I'll be honest."

"Ain't a day goes by when I don't think about killing myself."

And so began my time in Scenic Trails, a FEMA trailer park deep in the Mississippi woods where 100 families have lived in near isolation for close to two years.

Though Szepek was the first resident to tell me he wanted to commit suicide, he certainly wasn't the last. The day I spoke with him, three other residents confided the same. ...

Stephanie Sigur and Tim Szepek aren't alone. According to a recent study of 92 different Katrina FEMA parks published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine, suicide attempts in Louisiana and Mississippi's parks are 79 times higher than the national average. Major depression is seven times the national rate. ...

At Scenic Trails, almost everyone at the camp has been burglarized at least once. Meth and cocaine addiction is rampant, and residents seem to be turning against one another. Recently, the park has seen a rash of animal mutilations. One resident told me that her cat had come home bleeding — a long, thin razor cut along its leg. Another resident said his dog's throat had been cut, and several people reported that someone in the camp had been feeding anti-freeze to dogs.

More here. You can tell me NPR has a liberal bias if you want, but facts are facts, and truth is truth, and these are the facts, and this is the truth.

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