Multnomah County, Oregon's Answer To The New Orleans Refugee Crisis:Put Them In Jail
The Sheriff of Multnomah County, Oregon, Bernie Giusto has come up with a novel approach to house up to 2,000 New Orleans hurricane refugees; put them in jail.
Like many states that have had budget problems, Oregon is no exception. And in Multnomah County, in North Portland, a brand new jail, the Wapato jail sits empty and unused because after the construction was completed, budget money to run the jail ran out. But compared to other jails this is a very modern facility with no bars on the windows, comfortable beds with mattresses, modern medical and dental facilities. On one hand, this new facility would appear to be a good choice, but the on the other hand many poor people from New Orleans would likely feel deeply insulted by housing them at a jail, even if no door is locked behind them and they are free to come and go at any time.
Portland will put up at least 1,000 refugees in the fomer Washington high school site, with the funding by the Red Cross. And because the crisis is expected to last for weeks or months, Mayor Tom Potter, the former Police Chief, has planned for integration of students into local schools, and job plans for the adults able to work. And as many as 2,000 more hurricane refugees may be put up in the Wapato jail site if approved.
Many other states such as Texas, have put up far more refugees. Texas currently has 139,000 New Orleans flood refugees. If the city of New Orleans is not habitable for months, many of these 139,000 will become residents of Texas for at least a time.
This hurricane and resulting flood has not had the shock value of 9/11, yet the images are shocking in their own way. And even though the President built so much of his 2004 re-election campaign on the ability of the administration to better handle homeland security issues, and has shown a compassionate response to the disaster, still his administration is being heavily blamed for inept handling of the crisis. And while local official's planning also shares much blame, yet the magnitude of the crisis blew away any local emergency planning contingency plans.
The best that can be done is for better planning for a future crisis, such as another natural disaster or a major WMD attack by a terrorist organization in a major American city. The current finger-pointing to blame the crisis is only worthwhile if the next crisis is better planned for.