02 January 2006

Photo du Jour: Sign of the Times at Langenstein's Uptown/New Orleans Labor Shortage

One of the major problems continuing to plague post-KTMB New Orleans is a nearly non-existent labor pool to fill service industry jobs. The result is that many retail businesses (both locally owned and regional/national chains) physically able to be open are understaffed and/or operate under abbreviated hours or in some cases simply have not yet reopened. The above picture shows a sign posted at the entrance to Langenstein's Grocery Store on Arabella Street Uptown announcing the store will temporarily no longer be open on Sundays because of the "continued shortage of employees." This all boils down to a lack of housing. If families (and the "breadwinning" head(s) of the household) have no place to live, how can they come back to New Orleans--even if they desparately want to?

When Lake Pontchartrain and Lake Borgne penetrated the flood protection walls following KTMB's landfall the floodwaters didn't discriminate between ethnic or socio-economic lines. I would argue however, that the working class, mostly minority neighborhoods within the City of New Orleans have been more adversely effected by the wrath of post-KTMB flooding. Many families within the more affluent flooded areas such as Lakeview have the financial (perhaps insurance-juiced) resources to remain in the New Orleans area despite losing their homes and possessions if they desire. These people can temporarily rent an intact house or apartment on the Northshore, or in Metairie, or Uptown, or stay with the sister-in-law in her 2,500 square foot house in Mandeville or in Baton Rouge. Or they can decide they don't want to deal with the long-term rebuilding commitment its going to take to remain in New Orleans and pack it up and permamently relocate to Houston, Atlanta, or Baton Rouge, or wherever.

The majority of the blue collar working class who lost their homes don't have the flexibility of these options. Temporary housing in the form of FEMA trailers is imperative to getting them back to New Orleans. Political turf wars between the Mayor and the City Council and neighborhood interests (NIMBYism at its finest) as well as Federal and State conflicts have delayed the delivery and installation of these needed temporary units. Furthermore, in some cases FEMA is providing rent-free accomodations for a year in places such as Houston to low income New Orleanians likely resulting in their not returning home anytime soon. Until the housing issue is adequately addressed, labor shortages will continue to be a problem in New Orleans.


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