Some Houstonians Question Welcome-Mat Effort

Lori Rodriguez, Houston Chronicle, Sept. 2

Amid the overwhelmingly compassionate response to hurricane evacuees in Houston, a less-welcoming undercurrent is developing among people worried about the impact of thousands of needy, desperate people.

E-mails, blogs and callers to the Chronicle wonder why refugees draw such immediate assistance while Houston’s poor continue to suffer. Others fear an increase of crime.

Some are blunt. “Yes, let’s rush to bring over the looters and destroyers of public and private property,” wrote a commenter.

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“I’m glad that we’re putting out a welcome mat. These people have to go somewhere. But I don’t know if officials are appreciating the extent of what it’s going to take,” said Simon.

“You can hold the door open on the elevator for more and more people but, at some point, the elevator gets too full and the cable snaps.”

About two-thirds of the population of New Orleans and many of the evacuees are black. Some of the e-mails and calls have a racist bent.

But the unease cuts across racial lines. Michelle Louring, an African-American resident of the Greenspoint area, said her neighborhood already has experienced an increase in petty crimes and nuisances she blames on refugees.

“I understand we need to help. But the crime rate in New Orleans is really high and now we’re getting their problem. Plus, people in my community already have trouble getting jobs and services, and now everyone is concentrating on helping the refugees.”

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