I just gave Clarence a ride to Canal Street from Congress Street in the 9th Ward. He lives on the corner of Congress by St. Mary of the Angels. Apparently, he has seen me in the neighborhood and figured he could "trust me" to give him a ride to Canal Street. He waved me down and asked me. "Of course," I said.
TRUST - trust is so important here. It is something readily given by the locals and sadly, easily desecrated by those who have the type of hearts that are not troubled when stealing from the elderly, the poor, and the less educated.
Clarence is one of the elderly in the neighborhood that has been ripped off by contractors. His house sits half completed. The contractor did some shoddy work and then took off with Clarence's $67,000. Now his wife and kids live across the river and he tries to rebuild when he can. He told me today, "I thought all this trouble would be over by now. I am 68 years old and I have to go through all of this again. I went through it with Betsy and now I have to go through it again."
Mrs. G who lives in a FEMA trailer down the street from Clarence, had a contractor take $22,000 from her and left her house, a double shotgun, unfinished. She is 74 years old and as of today, I am the only person I know trying to help her find resources to get her house rebuilt.
She has been robbed twice this week. The first time this past Tuesday night. I found her wandering in the street in a daze at around 8:30 p.m.. She asked for my phone and we called the police to say she was robbed and needed their help. I told her I would stay with her until the police came. After 5 calls they finally came - at 5:45 Wednesday morning. I stayed with her through the night on her couch in her FEMA trailer, staying awake guarding her, whilst some of the guys on security from Common Ground watched over the trailer from up the street outside. K from Common Ground did everything he could for her, trying to get the police to come - you see the person who robbed her took her 38 snub nose she uses for protection. So she was pretty shook up and feeling pretty vulnerable. Which is unusual for Mrs. G., she is a pretty strong woman, strong in her opinions, strong in her caring for her community.
They robbed her again last night - taking her weed whacker out of her shed. She doesn't have much as it is, but to someone with less than she has, who needs to get drugs, or wants to work and doesn't have the money to buy their own weed whacker - well, I have found that they steal what they want from the elderly.
The elderly have it really hard here. They don't have access to computers, they tend to stay isolated in their homes. Mrs G tells me of her neighbor who is "a senior citizen" who stays in their boarded up home, hidden. The elderly are easy to prey on - they are often trusting of those who offer help. It is even worse for them when it is a non-profit that offers help and then the elderly (Mrs. G) finds out she was being used as a p.r. prop and the initial work done on her home was for photo ops and pr and that after the pr event everyone left the scene and her house which was to be a "showcase" house for the neighborhood in showing how progress was being made, was abandoned.
The elderly watch as Habitat for Humanity and other well meaning organizations come in with a crowd of 15 or 20 people to build a new house for some very deserving family, whilst they sit in their FEMA trailers wondering how to get help for themselves now that all their money has been stolen from them by contractors. Many do not know how to get help or where to get it or even know that they can. Many are depressed, frightened and lonely, living lives of quiet despair. Others work on their houses alone. I saw an elderly man on his roof working alone the other day trying to repair it whilst across the street a crowd of 15 people from Habitat were building a new home. Not one person thought to go across the street and help the elderly man working alone on his house. It's great that Habitat and Catholic Charities and other non-profits are here and building houses, yet I have seen time and again how so many others on the block sit and watch wistfully whilst they can get no help. It is especially hard for the elderly.
Yes, the elderly have it very hard here in the upper 9th Ward. Drug use amongst their younger neighbors is high and their funds are low. So the kids and young adults steal from the elderly - from their sheds, from their homes, from their FEMA trailers.
Imagine your grandmother having to sleep with a 38 pistol under her pillow - now imagine someone has broken into the tin can she stays in and has stolen it from her.
Both scenarios are horrifying to me. The fact that she even has to sleep with a gun and the fact that someone stole it from her.
Yes, the elderly have it very hard down here.