Katrina Plus One Year, Part 5 - Outside the Renaissance:

The Rude Pundit was not allowed into Renaissance Village. Not that he expected to be able to. But, he figured, what the hell. He drove up to the gate of one of the largest FEMAvilles in the country post-Katrina, a small patch of dirt with nearly 600 small white trailers and 2000 residents in the far northeastern part of Baton Rouge. The Rude Pundit knew he was doomed when the Catholic Services van was stopped and thoroughly checked. The security men at the gate, with the "No Trespassing" sign in front of it, were polite, simply saying that they weren't allowed, FEMA rules, blah, blah, blah. These guys are paid by the subcontractor to the Shaw Group that more accurately runs Renaissance Village. There was no use trying any further just for the sake of an entry on a blog that reads, "The Rude Pundit was beaten by security guards..."

Not that East Baton Rouge was much to write home about before Katrina, but when you drive around the area near Renaissance Village, you get a glimpse of the careful planning of where to put so many people being asked to rebuild their lives. It's close to the Ronaldson Landfill, where construction debris is piled. It's just a little ways from the ExxonMobil Chemical and Plastics plants. Pretty close to a juvenile prison with razor wire on its fences. And its hard to tell what there's more of around there: churches or payday loan places. All of this, of course, is in the middle of what was a residential area pre-Katrina.

Outside the fence of Renaissance Village, you can see row after row after row of the omnipresent FEMA trailers, the ones that have high formaldehyde levels, the ones that can all be opened with one key (until recently). In the nearly 100 degree Louisiana heat, hardly anyone was outside because, hell, the trailers reflect the light endlessly. A few people had decorated the outside of the tiny homes with something akin to patios. Most, though, were plain. The white of the trailers and the gravel is only broken up by the occasional blue of a dumpster. The trailers themselves were on strips of green "lawn." Somewhere in there is a playground that the regional Rotary Club and others helped build.

The Rude Pundit's not gonna come to any kind of conclusions or grand pronouncements here (other than, "Well, at least the U.S. can point to places like Renaissance Village and say that we treat our displaced people better than, say, the Sudan"). While the intention may have been to create a gated community, what is there is not unlike a prison, both physically and mentally.