(First written 8/10/07)
Scenic Trails is a campground in Hancock County, Mississippi, 30 minutes away from the nearest town. Not that different from other campgrounds in the neighborhood, Scenic Trails is filled with FEMA trailers that house evacuees from Hurricane Katrina. This County alone is “home” to 2,000 evacuees living in several former RV campgrounds selected because they have hookups for the FEMA trailers. Nationwide, two years after the hurricane, 35,000 Katrina evacuees still live in FEMA trailers, many in isolated areas. If they can get there, some trailer residents have found low-paying jobs of some sort but are still well below the poverty line.
Scenic Triails houses a demoralized population that has given up hope. Violence and criminal behavior are rampant, and depression and suicidal thoughts fill the days of the non-violent. The cost of rental housing is beyond their reach, trapping them in hopeless and fearful circumstances. Unless and until the federal government provides housing vouchers to assist them, they are pretty much stuck, miserable in a forgotten backwater. The Bush administration has amnesia about these people; those in power find it easy to blame the evacuees for their predicament. So… How does one reconcile one’s comfortable life with the abject misery of so many? Makes one think, too, about the millions of refugees who fill the corners of the world while those of us on top of the heap just turn a blind eye.