SOS Rallies in Support of Displaced Bayou La Batre Mothers at Safe Harbor 7


Solidarity-with-SafeHarbor-residents

First photo: Francis Golden of New York’s Cooper Square Community Land Trust, hoisted by fellow residents, called Safe Harbor residents in Alabama to show solidarity. Second photo: Safe Harbor children demonstrate at Bayou La Batre City Council meeting July 2013 after rents shot to 300% in two years. Landon, age 4, pictured in front row, said: “Please don’t make me leave my pretty blue house.” The little girl pictured next to Landon was evicted the next day. Landon was forced to leave April 30.

Alabama Fisheries Cooperative: A Multi-Cultural Fisher and Seafood Worker-Owned Cooperative, is working with Saving OurSelves Movement, a coalition of 40 organizations, to highlight and stop the displacement of residents who are speaking out against injustices against citizens.

The cooperative is hosting a Solidarity Shrimp Boil for Safe Harbor on Thursday, May 22, 2014 3 p.m. at Greater New Hope Baptist Church, 8420 E. Alba Street, in Bayou La Batre, Alabama. At 4 p.m., rally participants will tour Safe Harbor and at 5 p.m. they will present their petitions to the Bayou La Batre City Council meeting.

SOS asks the City of Bayou La Batre and its Mayor, Bret Dungan, to appoint a new and reasonable majority to the property management board at Safe Harbor who will keep the promise made by the city, federal and state governments of affordable housing at Safe Harbor for Katrina Survivors.

Hundreds of people, including single mothers and grandmothers caring for minor children, have struggled with tripled “Rents” and unfair evictions at Safe Harbor — a 100 Home Community Built for Katrina Survivors with $18 million in federal and state funds. Several women and their children are being evicted because they dared to speak out against the increases.

And why do the rents keep going up? The answer is found in CPA and housing coop developer Andrew Danforth 2012 analysis of Safe Harbor’s budget. The report concluded that management “have salaries of $130,000, equal to about 40% of collections, four times what one would expect privately,” and their legal fees “at the current clip of $34,000 are 8-10 times those that might be expected.” Mr. Danforth’s 2012 report showed “rents” could be cut in half. Yet they continue to rise, along with management’s salaries, legal fees, and the consequent rise in residents’ homelessness and heartbreak.

Speakers at the event include:

  • Faya Rose Touré representing SOS, civil rights attorney and education activist, songwriter, and playwright;
  • Benard Simelton, President Alabama NAACP;
  • Ronald Ali, 2nd Vice President Alabama NAACP /Mobile County NAACP President;
  • Captain Sidney Schwartz, 4th Generation Shrimper, Co-Founder Alabama Fisheries Cooperative;
  • Barbara Robbins, Seafood Worker, Co-Founder Alabama Fisheries Cooperative;
  • Barbara Howard, President Tuskegee/Macon County NAACP;
  • Honorable Johnny Ford, Mayor Tuskegee, AL.;
  • Joe Keffer AFL-CIO Alabama Labor Council;
  • Jeffery Jones, Chair Voting Rights Committee of Saving OurSelves; and
  • Frank Barragan, Alabama Coalition for Immigrant Justice.

Speakers will also address the Medicaid Expansion Petition Campaign and Rally scheduled for May 31 in Montgomery at which thousands of petitions will be presented to Governor Bentley; and the Campaign to Restore the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

 

MORE DETAILS

Safe Harbor is a 100 home neighborhood built for Katrina Survivors with $18 million in federal and state funds. Soon after former Mayor Stan Wright’s 2011 federal indictment for defrauding Safe Harbor, rents shot up 250% in one month, and rose to 300% last summer. The current lease between the City and the property manager requires “affordable housing.” State civil rights leaders and local community leaders demand that the City of Bayou La Batre and its property manager at Safe Harbor follow the clear language of their lease to require “affordable housing” according to the mission statement intended by the federal and state agencies who built these homes.

At the Bayou La Batre City Council meeting on July 2013, Landon, age 4 (the child pictured on the front row), said, “Please don’t make me leave my pretty blue house.” Two of the children (the little girl standing in the front row with her sister’s protective hands on her shoulders) and their single mom were evicted a few days later. Other children will now have to leave on April 30,2014, because they can’t afford the “rent” hikes.

“I’m disabled and my home was destroyed by Katrina. I was promised rent-by-income and rent-to-own at Safe Harbor. When the rents tripled last summer I had to leave and have been homeless many times since,” says Ernest Seaman a fifth-generation fisherman who filed a lawsuit against the City of Bayou La Batre and property manager at Safe Harbor for rent-gouging. “Last December, my son and I had to sleep in our car. I refused the $2,800 to ‘settle’ my case and fired the lawyers who peddled it. Lord knows I could use the money, but I’m going to keep fighting for my home and my neighbors’ homes, including those who will be forced out April 30th.”

Barbara Robbins, co-founder of Alabama Fisheries Coop says she is proud that Snows Quarter, Bayou La Batre’s historic African American community, is hosting the Shrimp Boil for Justice.

“We feel Safe Harbor folks’ pain directly. Out of some 100 homes, only four of us received meaningful Katrina rebuilding assistance. We were promised elevation by the former mayor,” she says. “Since Katrina many of our homes flood after a hard rain and we can’t even flush the toilet. My living room floor is rotting. I am afraid my 90 year old mother will fall through any day. Fred Tombar a Senior Advisor in HUD visited my home three years ago and was moved to tears. A few weeks later he brought HUD  Secretary Sean Donavan himself. Last year we voted in a new mayor, but still we have found no justice, in Snows or Safe Harbor. But together we will find it!”

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Barbara Robbins at 251 422-2941 or Zack Carter at 334 224-3983 — Organizers for Alabama Fisheries Cooperative: A Multi-Cultural Fisher & Seafood Worker-Owned Cooperative.