Since the first days after Hurricane Katrina came ashore Habitat for Humanity has been collaborating and working alongside a number of local and national organizations and assisting communities in the long-term rebuilding effort on the gulf coast. Below are a number of initiatives currently being worked on; no doubt over the next year the scope of work will increase.
For TFM‘s coverage of this issue, see “Worst Case Scenario” by Heidi Schwartz.
Restore the Gulf Coast
Heritage Conservation Network (HCN) is looking for students willing to travel to Mississippi and Louisiana during their school breaks and spend a week or more repairing structures in historic hurricane-affected neighborhoods. Groups and individuals are welcome to join this effort. Beginning January 2, 2006 and continuing weekly through at least March, workshop participants will get involved first hand in preserving and repairing houses in historic districts of Bay St. Louis and New Orleans, working with a technical expert and alongside local residents.
HCN is working in association with the Neighborhood Story Project, the Preservation Resource Center of New Orleans, the Preservation Trades Network and Architecture for Humanity to coordinate this relief effort. They hope to bring in crews of 10-12 volunteers each week to help rebuild people’s homes and businesses and their lives.
No preservation or construction experience is necessary, just a desire to make a difference. Participants must pay their own travel expenses and a minimal fee to cover housing, food, and insurance expenses. There is no cost to local residents attending to learn skills needed in preserving and repairing their own homes.
The first task in Bay St. Louis will be to assist with the salvage of architectural details that can be re-used by local residents in the rebuilding process. Items such as cypress doors and window frames, cypress beams, exterior carved detailing and more survived even when the houses were destroyed. Bulldozers are removing items daily, and local residents have asked for help in retrieving them while it is still possible.
In New Orleans, volunteers will initially assist homeowners with mold abatement, working through the building permit and inspection process, and removing damaged materials in preparation for rebuiding. Plans are underway for the preservation and repair of Willie Mae’s Scotch House, a neighborhood restaurant and residence, which has been “adopted” by the Southern Foodways Alliance. Four three-day weekends will bring 40 volunteers to complete work on this historic double shotgun and bring Willie Mae back to the kitchen.
Biloxi Relief Recovery and Revitalization Center, East Biloxi, Miss.
For nearly three months William F. Stallworth, Biloxi Councilman for Ward 2 in East Biloxi has been keeping hearts and minds together. Just two days after the storm, he created an informal center where the many volunteer groups working in the area gather to collaborate and share resources. The center has been providing residents with information and aid ever since. East Biloxi is an area that did not receive adequate FEMA assistance, mainly because many in the community speak Vietnamese and Spanish and did not know the kind of help that was available to them. Many are still living in structurally unstable, unsafe homes and have not left. For these people, the center has been a critical lifeline.
Right now, the center has just relocated to a temporary new space. Architecture for Humanity has committed some funding for this vital resource. It has also been in conversation with a number of donors and foundations to support the development of the housing coordination center and a pilot reconstruction project. The Center works with the community and coordinates volunteer organizations to meet various needs of the residents including debris removal, mold remediation, counseling, and basic survival. Plans are in the works to make the center into a comprehensive long-term housing resource for residents. A place where they can go to figure out everything from insurance claims, to FEMA grants, to mortgage assistance, to new housing design and construction. The center is currently partially run by residents themselves and would ultimately become a community and economic development engine for the city.
The housing resource center will:
*coordinate volunteer efforts, architectural and planning services, case management, resident services and other expertise.
*provide counseling, mortgage assistance, lending services and legal aid to residents displaced by the disaster
*coordinate with volunteers to repair and partially rehabilitate standing homes for residents who wish to return
*manage the construction of new homes for residents whose homes were destroyed
If you would like more information on how to volunteer at the center please contact Sherry Lea Bloodworth at [email protected]
Pro-bono design help needed for project in Plaquesmines Parish.
Plaquesmines parish housed as many as 27000 residents prior to the storm and has lost more than 80% of it’s buildings and residents. At present there are more than 100 residents living in cars, tents, and even shrimp coolers and boats. Joseph Gately is looking to build a transitional housing facility for a diverse assortment of people ranging from some of the sherriffs deputies, school officials, to the many residents who have refused to leave and have worked miracles in rescuing so many of the victims of Katrina. At present no FEMA trailers are available because they haven’t been able to get all of the necessary utilities running but progress is being made and we hope that prior to completion of the project all utilities will be up and operational.
Joe is looking to build a 2 story 10 unit and is looking for some short term design services to get the project up and running. In the long-term this facility will become a motel. If you are interested in helping please email him at [email protected]