East or West: Home is Best

Contrary to what many of us realize, many residents who lost their homes in New Orleans due to Hurricane Katrina – which was in 2005! – are still struggling to rebuild. Our BlogTourNola trip a couple of weeks ago wasn’t all about beignet’s and bubby, we were on a mission to learn more about all of New Orleans, not just the fancy parts.

As a wrap up to our trip to New Orleans, we’re holding a tweetday TODAY at 4:00EST to talk about the trends and themes we saw in New Orleans, the Kitchen & Bath Industry show, and most importantly, our meetings with the homeowners affected by the storms and where they are today.  To view the chat, please click here.

 Brad Pitt’s Make it Right Foundation is the largest LEED Platinum building project in the world. To date 90 homes have been built, with 5 more currently in construction. Pitt selected the Lower Ninth Ward for his project, one of the most devastated during the storm. These new houses are environmentally friendly, yet seek to maintain the local “front porch” culture of the area.  Homeowners have a choice of design plan, color schemes and finishes. Those who wish to participate are provided with the tools for financial planning and the team to make their new homes a reality.

Grassroots organizations are still on the ground working hard with their neighbors to get them back in their homes. We visited three homes and met the homeowners, volunteers and donors who are still working tirelessly (okay, they must be tired, they’re human after all!) to get their lives back.

 Meet Joe and Gloria:

Joe and Gloria Robert of New Orleans were newlyweds looking forward to a bright future together when Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast in August 2005.

Residing in their new house for just one month before Katrina slammed the city, the couple lost everything when the levee behind their house was destroyed – one of 53 levees in the city breached by the storm surge – and canal water swallowed the home. The Roberts evacuated the city, staying with various friends and relatives. When the flood waters receded weeks later, Joe and Gloria moved into a pop-up camper in their driveway for a while, but they’ve also been staying with Joe’s daughter from a previous marriage.

Nearly eight years later, Joe and Gloria’s house is still uninhabitable. While a new house has been framed out, the building lacks essentials including electrical, drywall, flooring and plumbing.  Because Joe is a contractor by trade, he has the skills to work on his house, but he has generously donated much of his free time to volunteering with St. Paul’s Homecoming Center helping to rebuild other people’s houses.

Joe works on his home little by little, but is often derailed by setbacks such as having his house broken into and his tools stolen. Even though Joe was forced to save up until he could replenish his tool supply, he has not lost his faith in humanity.

Fortunately, Joe and Gloria received some good news recently when Storehouse of World Vision selected the couple and their house for a rehab project. A few weeks ago Storehouse joined forces with the National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA) and St. Paul’s Homecoming Center to help rehab kitchens and baths in three houses as a lead-in to NKBA’s Kitchen & Bath Industry Show (KBIS) held April 19-21 in New Orleans.

While Storehouse and NKBA partners have donated materials, appliances and labor for a new kitchen and bath in the Robert’s house, the rest of the unfinished home still needs lots of TLC.

xoxo Linda