MOSAIC NOLA:The Gentilly Project

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

What A Family Needs To Return

As I saw New Orleans on Sunday, I was struck by the sheer enormity of it. There were so many neighborhoods full of houses that were flood damaged and empty. There were many thousands of vacated houses, in numerous silent neighborhoods throughout the city of New Orleans. And this kind of damage I'm told stretches out passed the city many miles throughout the Gulf Coast towns of Mississipi.

But there was something bounded about the devastation that I saw, despite how extensive it was. In the numerous silent neighborhoods, you can still count the houses. Although I can't comprehend how many rows of flood-damaged houses there must be in the city, I know that specific damaged neighborhoods can be readily identified. I know that each house in one of these neighborhoods can be counted, and that somewhere out there is a family that owns that house.

If any one family wants to return and reclaim their house, the physical and economic burden is immense -- too slow and too costly if they had to do it all themselves. Any of one of us would be paralyzed if faced with the situation. There's too little information about what to do, and getting information about what to do (and how to do it and getting help to do it) involves time and money that most family-units don't have.

But if there's a silver lining to this, I think that thousands of other families face a similar set of problems. That means that as a larger community of concerned citizens around the country, we might help groups of households in a neighborhood return if we can provide the physical and economic assistance at a focused geographic location, within the devasted New Orleans grid.

There are faith-based organizations that have been doing this for particular households for weeks, as other kinds of service and charitable organizations. Could this be extended more broadly and systematically?


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