New Orleans - Day 5 - working in the lower 9th ward

Surveying the mess in Letitia's workshop.

Letitia Youngblood's story is not unique - it's not atypical but it is heartbreaking. Letitia is an upholsterer. She does upholstery and makes drapery and teaches upholstering. Right before Katrina she was doing well enough that she refinanced her home in order to build a separate workshop out back and to renovate the house. Then Katrina came and destroyed her historic home and workshop.

She came back and found a contractor who took her money, did a lousy job and took off. She worked and saved enough to hire a second, better contractor. The house was getting close to done, close enough that the contractor told her to have her new appliances delivered. And then she got unlucky yet again when someone stole all the appliances, still in their boxes. They pulled a truck up to her home, took a chunk of fence off and cleaned her out. They stole her kitchen appliances, her toilet, the copper pipes in the floor and even the door and windows for her workshop.

If life wasn't harsh enough her mother died 4 months ago. She just wants to get home now and have life stop hitting her when she's down. The gutted house is beautiful - lovely woodwork and historic lines. someday, someday..... to help her you can donate though the 9th ward village here - and yes, it's a 501c3 organization.

in the workshop
in front of her house - note the historic district signs

After visiting her house, Mack, the executive director of the 9th ward village, took us on a tour of the lower 9th - us being myself and my father. We went to his own house. It's an amazing house - built around the turn of the last centery with astonishing details - a lot of stained glass and beautiful carved woodwork, high ceilings and lovely curved archways. It's also totally gutted - Katrina filled the first floor with 3 feet of water. Mack had just renovated the first floor and credits his contractor's zeal for many coats of varnish for an intact floor.

Mack pointing out details in the gutted house.

View out the back - the FEMA trailor is where Mack is currently living - and FEMA has notified him that it will be taken away on May 1 whether his home is ready or no. His insurance company is still stalling on paying the reduced amount they'd negotiated - 1/3 of the policy value.

fireplace with stained glass above

another one of the fireplaces - in the gutted front room.

In front of the house with my father. Mack is remarkably resilient. He's also more focused on helping others in his community so he's put far more effort into the 9th ward village and community center than his own home.

back at the 9th ward - Dave moving some girls.

Kyle working in the computer lab he and a few other kids put together.

intrepid shelf builders - there are a lot of tools here that need a place to be stored.

Another house in the 9th ward

and another
and another
and more - I was told that many of these houses, those that didn't have holes in the roofs, had people in them who drowned - the storm surge in parts of this neighborhood was 32 feet.

another historic house in the lower 9th

This was a really shocking day for me - driving through the neighborhood showed far more devastation than we had seen on the main streets. It's a beautiful, historic neighborhood. It's also been a poor black neighborhood all along and the neglict pre and post katrina is really horrifying.


Annika said…
What a fantastic view into the midst of your trip! Thanks so much from those of us left at home.

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