This week, Scott and I had the opportunity to go with some students from the college where he works on an “Alternative Spring Break” trip. 20 young men and women from the college traveled to New Orleans to help rebuild homes down there with Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA). I didn’t think there had to be much to do down there. It’s three and a half years after Hurricane Katrina. From what I’d seen up here in New Jersey, things were swinging again in NOLA: “Laissez les bontemps rouler!”
I couldn’t have been more wrong.
The Superdome and the Arena have been fixed. The Saints and the Hornets are playing. Mardi Gras parades are happening and Bourbon Street is rocking. The more wealthy citizens of the city have been able to repair and rebuild. Traveling through the wealthy sections of town that we had the chance to visit, we saw very few houses that are still uninhabitable. We even passed one historic home on Esplanade that is being rebuilt by the citizens of Qatar. But when you leave the business and tourist districts of the city, and see where most of the people live, it’s easy to see how much really has to be done.
The first house that some of the students were working on is for a lady named Carol. Carol needs a walker to get around, so there is a ramp for her on the side of the house and one on the inside of the home as well.
Carol started rebuilding a long while ago. She got her grant money and her low interest loan (more on the financial aspects of what’s going on in another post) and hired a contractor. That contractor did some work and then skipped town with Carol’s money.
The next contractor Carol hired hung some drywall and started to paint. Then he skipped town also. Carol was out of money. Now it’s 3 and a half years that Carol has been sleeping on her sister’s couch.
Carol applied for help from Project Homecoming. Project Homecoming has been able to help Carol to buy materials for her house and secure volunteers through PDA (like the college students that we went with) who, under the guidance of Site managers like Christina (center of photo at right), are rebuilding Carol’s house in the Lower 9.
Next up: the Lower 9