Should FEMA build one big refugee camp for NO?

With the number of displaced persons in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina, impromptu refugee camps are likely to spring up – and they’re likely to be breeding grounds for disease, owing to poor sanitation. Perhaps FEMA should set up one big camp, on some unflooded open ground near the city. The Army could build it – as they would build a semipermanent base close to a front. I’m thinking rows and rows of tents or quonset huts, latrines, mess tents, medical tents, etc. It wouldn’t be nice spending the next couple of months living in a tent with no air conditioning, but at least it would be safe, sanitary, and comfortable compared with what they’ve got now.

My libertarian brother says that’s a bad idea. We don’t want to encourage these people to stay. Most of them will have no jobs in NO to go back to for a long time. What they need to do is relocate to other parts of the country and look for work.

What do you think?

How many refugees are you presupposing here? 10,000? 100,000? The SCA has an annual camping event for about 10,000 people on a known site with established water supplies, and everybody jokes about the sanitation & safety issues… and that’s just for two weeks.

Yeah, well, I’m sure the Army didn’t build it. The Army has extensive experience in building much larger camps and keeping them safe and sanitary for much longer periods. At least a refugee camp in Louisiana would not have to be fortified against enemy attack. As for how many refugees, 100,000 is probably a very low figure.

Given that there are currently more than 1,000,000 refugees from New Orleans and the Gulf Coast.

Given that at least 50% of those will be displaced for upwards of 6 months.

What exactly do you propose should be built to house such a number in one place? The City of New Orleans, perhaps? :dubious:

What’s the alternative? Not all of them are going to be able to find refuge with relatives in other states. I’m just saying one big camp run by FEMA would be safer and more sanitary than the ad hoc “tent cities” that otherwise would pop up here and there and everywhere around metro NO. And it would be cheaper then paying for hotel rooms for all the refugees for six months, even if that were a realistic option.

What I am hearing is that churches all across the country are already finding temporary homes for the homeless. Friends from around the country are telling me that people are being shipped in to their towns and registered, then local families who are empty nesters, have mother-in-law type add ons, or just extra rooms are coming and taking families home with them. They are finding people willing to employ them, and some of the homeless are saying they have no intention of ever going back to NO if they can get set up somewhere else.

I am not seeing this on the news much yet, but friends have also said when they drove down to local distribution shelters where new evavuees are being taken to drop off clothes and personal hygiene items, they are being turned away, told they have enough stuff, and to just donate it to the Goodwill or Salvation Army.

So there may not be such a need for a big camp in one place. Spreading them around the country looks like the way to go to me.

I would expect that FEMA, possibly with military assistance, will make some sort of arrangements to accomodate evacuees beyond the the short-term facilities, like the Astrodome, that are now in place. One rumor I’ve heard secondhand (can anyone confirm?) is that FEMA can and soon will compel owners of rental property to open any empty units they may have to evacuees, with the rent paid by FEMA at a rate to be determined by the agency. As I said, rumor, but it doesn’t sound totally implausible.

Assuming camps are necessary, however, I don’t see any particular reason why one huge camp would be inherently safer more sanitary or all that much more practical than smaller camps. Just the opposite, really: giant camp = impersonal and more difficult to police, and giant sanitation problem.

Likewise, there are numerous sites around the country already that could handle anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand evacuees each, probably with less of a need for construction and set up of utilities than building one giant camp from scratch. Someone in another thread, I believe, mentioned that church camps, which normally are only occupied a couple of weeks out of the year, could be used to house some of the evacuees.

As an aside, there is a storage yard just up the street from my place of work that is filled with several dozen trailer-type accomodation units. These things have been sitting there for months. Placed on a suitable property, one would have an instant evacuee camp that could handle maybe several hundred people.

New Orleans already has that. Its called public housing. Tell your Libertarian brother that if they don’t stay and rebuild then they’ll take their newly acquired survival skills to a theater of operation near you.

A lot of people are going to have to stay, because a lot of labor is going to be needed to rebuild that city.

I can’t imagine that 1,000,000 people are going to be able to just sit on welfare for a year while there are massive labor shortages in their own city for reconstruction.

What I expect will happen is that the most necessary people (the current New Orleans engineers, construction workers, dock workers, municipal workers, electricians, plumbers, etc) will be back at work in the city very soon. Perhaps the first buildings restored will be NO hotels and large facilities, and they’ll house the first workers back. There will also be tons of work for unskilled labor - clearing rubble, demolishing damaged-beyond-repair buildings, clearing the streets of refuse and detritus.

I suspect there will be a kind of boostrapping here. The first wave of returnees will get the place ready for the next wave, which will get ready for the next, until the city is as repopulated as its going to be.

Amazingly, there are other options, some of which are already in the works.

Putting everyone in one place simply isn’t feasible, for size reasons if nothing else. I think that was the point of my post, obviously lost on you.

Other areas of the country will obsorb some of the people. Massachusetts is arranging to take 2,500, which isn’t many but at least a start. Many of them will be used to rebuild like Sam suggests. There will still be those that can’t be placed and for them possibly a camp would work. It isn’t the lack of A/C that I worry about, since soon we will be worring about winter. The problem I see is to make them communities, not warehouses.

Why should we want them to be communities, if they’re only intended to be temporary?

I say we send them all to the ultimate temporary city…Sturgis.

Because the folks I’m talking about are going to be there several months. There will have to be schools started, activity centers and other basic needs. Without a feeling of community keeping everything under control will be lots harder and the people will be vey dissatisfied.