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of eltila MOM IT NESE 211S8 SUNDT RID $32 ADVANCE $40 DAL Tkcfieurds.con What they wanted to know was what would happen to public housing on the island. Krishnarao could not say. “Everything is on the table right now,” he told them. “The goal is to bring every one of the displaced families back to the island.” The crowd wanted more than a goal. “You’ve got this meeting going on but you’re not equipped for it,” one man said. “You’re not ready for it.” Whether the projects will be restored or demolished will depend on the results of a federal inspection of the units, Krishnarao said. He said the assessment was expected the following week, before Thanksgiving, but as this issue went to press, folks were still waiting. \(In New Orleans, it took 10 The audience peppered Krishnarao with questions and complaints: Why are there fences around the projects? What will happen once FEMA assistance runs out? Why weren’t the apartments cleared of mold right away? \(“The longer it sits, the sick, elderly mother hadn’t been able to get a Section 8 voucher and was living in a homeless shelter in Houston. “My mother lived here all her life, raised her children here he said. “This is where she wants to be.” Krishnarao urged them to consider the disaster an opportunity for a “do-over.” “Insanity is trying the same thing over and over,” he said. As a model for rebuilding, he is studying Biloxi, Mississippi. When Hurricane Katrina swept through Biloxi, its housing authority was already transforming traditional public housing into mixed-income developments like The Oaks in Galveston. Barracks-style projects had been torn down and houses were going up. Funding came in large part from the federal HOPE VI program, a controversial HUD initiative that helped underwrite The Oaks. At the time of the storm, 374 such homes, which replaced up to 500 apartments, were near completion in Biloxi. All were destroyed. Katrina also destroyed two of the city’s six housing projects. Bobby Hensley, executive director of the housing authority, says the storm has unleashed an affordable housing shortage. People who owned their own homes before the storm have suddenly found themselves unable to rebuild. A waiting list recently closedhas grown to 1,000 families. The authority has tried to address the crisis by continuing its HOPE VI-backed construction spree. But problems in the credit market and skyhigh insurance rates have left would-be homeowners unable to get financing. As a result many homes built last spring sit empty. Meanwhile, the sites of the torn-down projects are slated for a casino and hotels. In post-Katrina New Orleans, HOPE VI funded the destruction of several of the city’s major housing projects. As things got heated, Krishnarao said that Galveston’s dilemma reminded him of Tetris, a video game in which different-shaped blocks dropping from the top of the screen have to be fit together in neat interlocking rows. As the game advances, the puzzle pieces fall faster and faster, until it’s impossible to anticipate the next step. It was an odd analogy, but Krishnarao seemed to suggest that the rebuilding task is enormously complicated and increasingly difficult as days and months go by. “We are experiencing that,” he said. “The sheer magnitude of the issues, the sheer scale of the issues.” The problem is bigger than Galveston Housing Authority.” Later that evening, Rev. Burkley spoke at a town hall meeting he’d helped organize for North Side citizens to hear from FEMA and city officials. Before the anger and frustration began to flowand it didBurkley addressed the crowd in a prayerful voice, putting things in rare perspective. “Our lives and our livelihood depend on this,” he said. “Amen?” Th “Best placer cure e Herb par what ails u” Explore our Oasis of Earthly Delights! extensive array of natural health 04,44,t’q comprehensive and bodycare products omprehensive collection of herbs 200 West Mary 444-6251 tot o o t n. 1-\(7i i 10-6:30 DECEMBER 12, 2008 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 15