ACORN’s Report from the Frontlines of the Hurricane

by ACORN News on September 9, 2005

(Ed note: ACORN, the nation’s largest activist organization of low-income families, is headquartered in New Orleans. The accompanying report gives fresh insight into what’s happening to displacees and how ACORN is organizing to gain victims immediate assistance.)

Dear friends,

First, I want to thank you all for your outpouring of concern and support for those whose lives have been so profoundly affected by Hurricane Katrina. Low-income and African American families – some of them ACORN members, many of them from ACORN-organized neighborhoods – are bearing the brunt of the suffering caused by the hurricane. As the largest community-based organization of low-income families in New Orleans and the nation, we are engaged in directly assisting and organizing our displaced communities-and organizing to demand a real voice in the immediate relief efforts and the long-term rebuilding process.

The stories we have heard from ACORN members are heartbreaking. New Orleans ACORN member Audrey Allen recalls:

“We went to find our family at the Astrodome. Buses just kept coming with so many people. People couldn’t get in – people had nowhere to go. We saw kids roaming around with no parents. We saw people lying on the floor outside the dome that couldn’t get in. They were wet, because people were rescued wet and they had no clothes to change into. They tell us now to call the relief agency, but when we call no one helps. No vouchers to get clothes, no food stamps, nothing. We ate outside a church today, but we have nothing. We saw a flyer to go to the food stamp office. We heard that there is a really long line. We’re going there tomorrow and we’re going to stand in line as long as we have to.”

Already, with the generous donations of hundreds of individuals, foundations and allies, ACORN has been able to relocate our New Orleans-based local and national operations to Baton Rouge, LA, and Houston, TX – and continue serving and organizing our communities:

a.. ACORN is reaching out to displaced New Orleans ACORN members, through text messages, public service announcements, and organizing teams at shelters, and connecting them to ACORN families who have opened their homes to hurricane survivors.

b.. ACORN Housing staff is stationed outside Houston’s Convention Center to help evacuees with their housing needs, including helping evacuees who are homeowners to contact their mortgage servicers to arrange for forebearance of mortgage payments.

As the rebuilding and resettlement of the region begins, we know low-income families will need: safe and dignified living conditions; family-supporting income from sources like unemployment insurance, food stamps, social security, and other assistance programs; jobs to replace those lost in the hurricane; healthcare; and education for their children.

Across the country, members are already taking action to demand better treatment than hurricane victims have received so far:

a.. Last week, ACORN members made thousands of calls and organized rallies at their Congressional offices in 20 cities to demand that residents of hurricane-struck areas receive immediate assistance.

b.. ACORN is developing a set of proposals for a federal policy response that reflects the needs and issues of our communities

c.. In the coming days, ACORN chapters in cities around the country will be organizing Town Hall Meetings in over 30 cities to hear the experiences of hurricane survivors and build community pressure on our elected officials to ensure that New Orleans’ evacuees get the support they desperately need.

New Orleans ACORN member Joe Strafford, family, and Houston ACORN hosts.

A few days ago, New Orleans ACORN member Joseph Strafford, who lost his father in the hurricane, received a text message from ACORN offering help. Now, he and his family are staying with Houston ACORN members. He explains: “When I saw that text message on my phone from ACORN, it was a blessing. This is America. There is no excuse for the way they did this – letting people die like this. I want to come to the ACORN meetings here in Houston.”

Please join us in this work:

Take action: keep the pressure on federal officials for better recovery efforts. Donate to the ACORN Hurricane Recovery and Rebuilding Fund.

Maude Hurd, President ACORN

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