This post (and the linked article) over at Relapsed Catholic brought back some memories.
My dad visited New Orleans once, years ago. He was headed to dinner at a place about two blocks away; so close that, as he tells it, he could clearly see the steakhouse sign from the hotel lobby, practically smell the beef. Even so, the concierge all but forced him to go by cab - they assured him, if he risked the walk, he would be taking his life in his hands!
And a friend of mine at college told me his family owned part of an apartment building in Texas. After Katrina, the other owners wanted to open the place up as a free shelter for refugees, like other buildings in the neighborhood, but his family refused. They had spent their fair share of time in New Orleans, it seems, and wanted none of it. Sure enough, a year goes by, and the once furious co-owners are falling over themselves to thank the uncharitable holdouts for saving them from the (oh-so-very natural) disaster that has befallen all the other poor, kind-hearted, naive (or perhaps not so naive, but unwilling to appear mean or racist) landlords in the area: property destruction, crime, the usual. Theirs is apparently one of the few buildings in the area that didn't become a dangerous slum.
I'll admit, I don't know if I could turn refugees away myself. I wouldn't exactly have sympathy for those who come begging, but I'd probably welcome 'em, write the building off, and throw another log onto my growing martyr complex. But I certainly won't hold it against those who take a less fatalistic view, who see not Mary and Joseph seeking shelter, but Breau and Broussard seeking silverware, and who decide to close (and lock!) the door.
Incidentally, this reminds me of one of my very last encounters before leaving Cambridge. I was in the bank to close my account, and, to my great bemusement, found myself waiting in line behind one of the local homeless. He hangs out right outside CVS in the Square, and I've given him change a few times. Now here I was in line behind him as he filled out some form and talked to the teller about his apartment. Yes, his apartment. 'Homeless' beggars with bank accounts and bachelor pads - not bad if you can get it!