Ten years ago the city of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast were forever altered when Hurricane Katrina arrived. A lot has changed in the years since Katrina left New Orleans battered and flooded. The people of the city, some still trying to return home, continue to struggle.
Mennonite Central Committee Central States continues to walk alongside the people of New Orleans to support the human right to return home. Survivors Village, an MCC Central States partner organization, focuses its work on housing. Just after Katrina, “all of the public housing communities were fenced in and shuttered denying the residents the right to return to their homes, including the right to recover their property,” recounts Endesha Juakali the director of Survivors Village.
“I miss the community we had in St. Bernard, which was a family. Everybody knew everybody. We knew how to do community things,” recalls Stephanie Mingo of her former life in the St. Bernard housing project. Prior to Katrina, St. Bernard was in New Orleans’ 7th Ward. Soon after the storm it was shuttered, torn down and the land leased to a private developer.
Pam Nath, Community Organizer for MCC in New Orleans, explains that gentrification is playing a large role in what is happening with housing in New Orleans. “We see gentrification as a systemic process and have been working at identifying collective ways to respond to these systemic forces.” Nath works with various groups in New Orleans to address the systemic forces at play. Many public housing units have been demolished to make way for private condos and luxury hotels.
Gentrification, the disparity between the rich and poor, and issues with housing were not created by Hurricane Katrina, but they were exposed and exponentially compounded in the wake of the storm. MCC continues to follow the lead of local groups and work alongside them to address these issues.