How Miami's Little Haiti Fared

Sep 17, 2017
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LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

Now we return to recovery efforts in the wake of Hurricane Irma. Francesca Menes is the director of policy and advocacy at the Florida Immigrant Coalition. We spoke to her before the storm about the Little Haiti community in Miami. Now we're checking back in with her to see how her community fared.

Thank you for coming onto the program today.

FRANCESCA MENES: Thank you again for having me.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I know communications are a little spotty - still no cell phone. What's the situation with electricity? What does the neighborhood look like now?

MENES: So parts of the community have electricity, but parts of it still does not have electricity, unfortunately. We know that the contractors are working, you know, at a quick speed because we've seen the numbers drop dramatically. But what we anticipated as what's happening is that the communities of color are the ones that are still without electricity. And it's been very unfortunate to see that.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: What does the - what does it look like? I mean, when you walk around, what are you seeing?

MENES: Oh, there's a lot of downed trees, trees that I would've never thought would've uprooted out of the ground. Like, huge trees that I know have been there since I was a kid. The day after the hurricane when I went out, there were certain roads that were just blocked. And what I also noticed started happening was that community members were going out into the streets themselves because they're like, nobody's going to come out here and help us so we had to help ourselves.

So we're going to cut down these trees, and make sure to clear the roads because people need to be able to get in and out. And we needed to be able to get in and out because we were bringing resources into the community and bringing food and water supplies to, you know, the community, as well as the elderly population who were in apartments, who couldn't leave.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So yeah, you're saying that you're bringing food and water into the community. Why is that been necessary? How has the community there been holding up?

MENES: I mean, the most like hurtful thing, like, in which hurts the most is that you're coming out and just bringing - like, we're just bringing very basics, like hot dogs - like, hot dogs and buns. And people are, like, coming up to us and saying, like, thank you because I haven't eaten in three days. And that's a lot of what we've been seeing because FEMA hasn't been here. Red Cross hasn't been here. Red Cross has been coming in very slowly.

And even yesterday, it was community organizations that got together - put their resources together, and we held a cookout in Little Haiti where we fed about 1,500 people. And that was, you know, churches donating boxes of chicken to us. And that was community organizations coming together, not the Red Cross, not FEMA, not the city of Miami. Not any of these people. It was committee organizations. And that's the frustrating thing because they don't see our communities as communities in need.

And that's, like, how would you - who's making decisions as to what communities are in need because we're literally going into a week of people with no electricity who weren't well off to begin with, who have very limited transportation. They're in food deserts where there's probably, like, one or two corner stores that they have to get their food from. And so there was definitely not enough for the community. And so that's why there are organizations like ours who stepped up. Because if we're not doing it, we don't know who else is going to do it for them.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right. That's Francesca Menes. She's the director of policy and advocacy at the Florida Immigrant Coalition.

Thank you so much for speaking with me.

MENES: Thank you so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.