Residents voice concern over flooding, fraud and homelessness

Published 3:49 pm Wednesday, March 31, 2021

John Guidroz

Calcasieu Parish residents at a Tuesday meeting called on local officials to focus on fixing lingering drainage issues, helping the homeless, and preventing future contractor fraud. The meeting was part of an effort by the Police Jury to seek public input for a long-term hurricane recovery plan, set to be released this summer. 

Braylon Harris said officials should consider the mental, emotional and spiritual impacts of Hurricanes Laura and Delta, not just the financial side. He said there is a need to invest in high quality communication that can grab the attention of residents who are swamped with their own personal hurricane recovery.  

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Harris said residents who are still displaced from the hurricanes should be informed and know the parish wants them to return home.

Samuel Booker said residents living in Greinwich Terrace are dealing with repeated flooding problems because of an obsolete drainage system.

“We are afraid, confused, frustrated, among other emotional things,” he said. “We do not want to lose our community to nature or any other force.”

Lydia Larce asked officials to be proactive instead of reactive. She said there is a lack of information to show the community the progress being made.

“As a citizen of Calcasieu Parish, I haven’t seen your data where you’re trying to involve individual and family empowerment,” she said. 

Larce said her community isn’t seeing efforts to help residents with emotional recovery.

“It’s as though we are left out of the equation to get to the final result you all are seeking,” she said. “My community is being left out, and I have a problem with that.”

Roishetta Ozane and Dominique Darbonne with the Vessel Project spoke of how they provided shelter for the homeless during the freezing conditions in February. Ozane called on officials to help residents who are newly facing housing insecurity as this year’s hurricane season approaches.

“A lot of these homeless communities have been abandoned,” she said. “We just want a proactive plan so we’re not facing what we did during the freeze.”

Angela Guth, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Southwest Louisiana spoke of residents being scammed by unlicensed contractors who did “inferior work.” 

“I can’t even begin to tell you the number of phone calls we are getting daily on contractor fraud,” she said. “Anywhere from people giving $18,000 up front and never seeing the contractors again, to paying their roofer and their roofer not paying the suppliers and the supplier is putting liens on the consumer.”

Guth said her office was handling 200-300 calls right after Hurricane Laura as a resource for contractors, plumbers and tree removal. She said many contractors were vetted with a temporary work permit, only for the bureau to find out later they were unlicensed. She said roofers in Texas don’t have to be licensed.

“There were contractors crawling like ants in this city,” she said. “What are your vetting processes to issue those work permits?”

Guth called on a group to guide residents seeking repair work. She said there is a need to help and communicate effectively with residents if another devastating hurricane impacts homes and businesses.

“Where do they go,” she asked. “They didn’t know.”

Alberto Galan, with the office of parish administrator, said the intent of the long-term plan is to have a list of priorities ready once Congress appropriates federal dollars for hurricane recovery 

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