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MSDL Leader Responds to Katrina Evacuees

Monroe, LA — Just like many cities within Louisiana, Monroe opened its doors to many New Orleans evacuees. From all evidence, it appears that returning home will not be an option for them for quite some time. In the meantime, a number of businesses and organizations are rallying together to provide food, clothing, and temporary shelter for them.

These things will take care of their immediate needs. However, I am concerned about their need to be self-sustaining. How do I help them as I have wanted to help others to move beyond their circumstances rather than wait for others to pick them up and move them forward?

I am reminded of our many MSDL conversations regarding the mindset and behavior of those living in poverty. People in extreme poverty are so preoccupied with making ends meet that they are unable to become self-empowered and are left out of many policy discussions that could impact their lives. What a tragedy.

During the initial opening of an Evacuee Shelter here in Monroe, I spent some time volunteering at the site. I wondered why there were no Blacks sitting behind any of those tables when there were so many Black evacuees scattered throughout the building.

There must be a focus by local towns and cities on helping families become more empowered to help themselves. We must start undoing what generations of living in poverty and communities disconnected by race and class have created. This must be the mission of every agency, church and organization within the Delta Region.

This article was contributed by Millie Atkins, a graduate of the Mid South Delta Leaders program. MSDL is a tri-state leadership program in the Mid-South funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

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