Law students help victims of Katrina

first_imgShe also said he spoke of children not having transportation to school and how food was provided to the elderly last. “He talked about the place like he was living in a prison camp,” she said, noting that security guards line the remote community. “He feels like they’re being treated as pariahs – being picked up \ and put somewhere so no one has to look at them. “There’s a sense that they want to hide \ so they aren’t faced with what they’ve done and what’s happened,” she continued. “It broke my heart.” Nguyen said while it is “depressing” to think how much more needs to be done for Katrina victims, she does feel good about the things the law students were able to accomplish. “It’s helpful to see how much people who are exploited or left vulnerable by their circumstances can be helped by attorneys,” she said. “I didn’t see that in Los Angeles. Seeing it so blatantly in Mississippi, that’s something I can take away from that – knowing that we as attorneys can actually make a difference in people’s lives.” [email protected] (626) 578-6300, Ext. 4496 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! Four area students from the USC School of Law spent their semester break using their legal education to assist Hurricane Katrina victims in still-devastated towns along the Gulf Coast. Stacie Torres, 25, of Sierra Madre said she was shocked to see skeletons of formerly majestic mansions and homes for miles and miles along the coast near Biloxi, Miss. “Mississippi has kind of fallen by the wayside,” said Torres, who worked with a public interest firm called the Mississippi Center for Justice while in Biloxi. “Piers where boats used to be tied up are just concrete pillars and shards of wood in the water. There is still clothing in trees, tattered flags flying and water hoses wrapped around trees.” Despite feeling as though they were “barely chipping at the tip of the iceberg,” as Torres put it, about 550 law students – 30 of whom were from USC – came to New Orleans and Biloxi to lend their legal knowledge to firms that needed people on the ground to research and gather information from the locals affected by Katrina. Along with Torres, Tien Nguyen, 25, from Cerritos, and Jessica Charles, 23, from Pasadena, worked with the center, interviewing people and bringing the information gathered back to the organization for use in future class-action lawsuits. The major problem, Charles explained, is that many of those stricken by the hurricane are of a lower-income bracket and unaware of their legal rights. “A lot of them are living in \ trailers and need assistance moving into houses,” she said. “They need to know their rights when speaking to landlords. People’s rents have doubled and quadrupled during the storm. People need someone to take a stand and talk to people for them.” Most deplorable to USC law student Elizabeth Gonzales, 29, from Pico Rivera, was the way in which the roughly 2,000 residents of Renaissance Village – a FEMA trailer park located in Baker, La., on the outskirts of Baton Rouge – were treated. Gonzalez, who was sent to the trailer park by the New Orleans’ NAACP Gulf Coast Advocacy Center to interview residents about their jobs, said one man told her that those who complained about the living conditions were kicked out. last_img read more