Raising the Volume
In 2005, 100% of Lower Ninth Ward homes were rendered uninhabitable due to the levees breaching. Though low in financial resources, this historic African-American neighborhood, enjoyed one of the highest rates of black homeownership in the nation at the time. Only 36.7% of total inhabitants have "returned" but many of these are new residents, and it is likely that only 10-15% of the original families that once lived there have returned. Obstacles like contractor fraud, unscrupulous insurance and mortgage companies, and discriminatory federal recovery programs have prevented true population return. Disasters may not discriminate, but recoveries absolutely do.
Lowernine.org exists to help those affected by this discrimination to return home.
Due to its proximity to the Industrial Canal levee breach, the Lower Ninth ward, a.k.a. the "Lower Nine" was one of the hardest-hit neighborhoods in the New Orleans area during Hurricane Katrina. Rebuilding in the Lower Nine has lagged behind that of other neighborhoods because of the neighborhood's poverty, scale of the devastation, and inaction from local, state and federal governments. Displaced residents found themselves dealing first with toxic mold in toxic FEMA trailers, toxic Chinese sheetrock from unscrupulous contractors, endless runarounds from insurance and mortgage companies, and finally malpractices under a discriminatory governmental recovery program. It became clear that the Lower Nine would be much slower in recovery than other areas of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast Region.
Lowernine.org was originally founded by Maine boat builder Rick Prose, as a follow up organization to the non-profit "Emergency Communities", which sprung up post-Katrina in Mississippi and St. Bernard, Plaquemines, and Orleans Parishes providing early forms of disaster relief and recovery.
As years passed and the initial debris removal, mold remediation, and gutting work was completed, it was apparent that skilled rebuilding would be the next step in the process. Rick brought a group of volunteers from his home town of Boothbay Harbor, and quickly realized that under skilled supervision, un-trained volunteers could fully rebuild flood-damaged homes. It was with this revelation that lowernine.org was born.
To date, Lowernine.org has fully rebuilt 82 homes in the Lower Ninth Ward and completed 200+ smaller home repair projects. They have worked on many different homes for many different families, and have set up for neighborhood gatherings, such as annual Katrina memorials. Lowernine.org strives to assist the community of returned residents in whatever way they can.
As of 2014, population return is only 34% – lagging far behind the rest of the City of New Orleans, whose population return is nearly 90%. In the spring of this 2014, almost nine years after the levee breaches and flooding, residents received notices from the City that read “The City of New Orleans will soon begin repairing Katrina-damaged roads and infrastructure in your neighborhood”.
The FEMA closeout date for the storm is 2025. Conservative estimates have the rebuilding of the Lower Ninth Ward taking another decade.
Lowernine.org offers their rebuilding and new-construction program services to residents of the Lower Ninth Ward, and in order to qualify, participants must have resided in the Lower Nine prior to the storm and agree to use the newly constructed or rebuilt him as the primary place of residency. Trained builders undertake construction tasks using volunteers to perform the bulk of the labor, so rather than paying what a contractor would charge, participants only have to pay for materials. Once a team has assessed the home, Lowernine.org draws up an estimate, and materials are purchased as needed for work to progress. Lowernine.org provides free labor to replace roofs, repair framing, install windows, insulate, sheetrock, lay floors, paint and do other necessary work. Lowernine is always looking for volunteers to help complete these incredibly rewarding projects
An initial fundraising goal of $1,000 will cover the costs of drywall for an entire home.
A secondary fundraising goal of $2,000 will enable Lowernine to purchase and install drywall and flooring in an entire home.
A final goal of $5,000 would cover installation costs of drywall, flooring, and trim in a home, as well as covering the salary of a project manager for two months.
Lowernine.org hopes to bring 10 more families home to the Lower Ninth Ward who lived in this neighborhood prior to Katrina. They also hope to finish 25 smaller projects to help keep families in their homes.
Also be sure to follow Lowernine.org on Twitter