BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - His work and dedication helped thousands of hurricane victims who had nowhere else to turn. Attorney Reilly Morse was the guest speaker at Friday's Katrina-Plus 10 series of talks at the Ohr-O'Keefe Museum of Art in Biloxi.
"The folks we were dealing with from the very beginning, before we even had an office, were in deep, deep distress," Morse told the lunchtime crowd.
The lawyer dealt with a myriad of fair housing cases and FEMA trailer issues in the wake of the storm. Battered by natural disaster, people soon faced difficult decisions.
"Trying to figure out how to navigate a really complicated labyrinth of federal recovery programs that were hard and complicated and confusing, making what seemed to be unreasonable demands," Morse explained.
The arrival of disaster relief money then spawned a whole new category of cases.
"Once the money lands, out come the predators. The folks who come along to an elderly woman, who's never had to oversee a housing repair, and says just give me half of that check, I'll go down to Lowe's and I'll get started, and then they disappear," said the attorney.
And that Katrina fraud wasn't limited to shady contractors.
"Hotel employee who refused her employer's instructions to commit price gouging, and was fired. So we secured that person's unemployment benefits, but also established important whistle blower protection for Mississippi employees," Morse said.
Along with his work in the fair housing arena, attorney Morse also helped launch the battle over nearly $600 million in housing assistance, which was instead diverted to the Port of Gulfport for port improvements and job creation.
"We just didn't say no, it's the wrong thing to do. We said you've got needs, you have real housing human needs here that you have to address," Morse recalled, "This isn't just some NIMBY-ism. This isn't just somebody being cranky because they think they're right. There's folks on the ground that didn't get taken care of. And you're walking away from them. That's wrong."