Hurricane Gustav gave the state of Louisiana a test for which it had three years to prepare. There were thousands of poor, sick, disabled and elderly people who could not get out on their own. They needed to be rescued with dispatch, and sheltered in safety and dignity. One simple test. The state flunked.
Gustav ended up being no Katrina, and the week of suffering was not as severe as the deathly mayhem of three years ago. But residents had every right to expect better treatment than they received. After a week of indignities in crowded, unsanitary shelters, many returned home with their fragile finances in turmoil. They had been forced to buy extra basics while out of their homes, and September rent was due.
The secretary of Louisianaâ€™s Department of Social Services, which was responsible for the shelters, resigned after this scandal and one involving problems with food stamp distribution. Now, many poor residents are vowing â€œnever again,â€ as in, â€œNever again will we get on the bus to be warehoused. Weâ€™ll ride out the next storm.â€ In New Orleans, disaster is never far away, and government incompetence cannot be allowed to undermine a swift, sure evacuation. Gov. Bobby Jindalâ€™s administration should move on a better plan that does not expose the poor to substandard treatment. â€” The New York Times