Resist, Rejoice and Rebuild the Lower 9th Ward

Resist, Rejoice and Rebuild the Lower 9th Ward

Crowdfunding Completed: July 17, 2017

Amount Funded: $2585

Project Owner: All Souls New Orleans

Short Description of Project

Every joyful gift rebuilds a home and resists the injustice that slows our recovery. Our multiplier effect turns $1 given into $14.29 in construction.

How was this project connected to UU?

Every joyful gift rebuilds a home and resists the injustice that slows our recovery.

Our multiplier effect turns $1 given into $14.29 in construction - a total of $4 million so far.

The Lower 9th Ward Homeownership Association's housing program (called House the 9) grew out of the commitment made by DC's All Souls Church Unitarian to seek justice for the displaced homeowners of the Lower 9th Ward. M. A. Sheehan, the Director of the House the 9 Program, fell in love with New Orleans on volunteer trips with All Souls. On the very first trip, she also fell in love with another volunteer from All Souls, who is now her wife. Together they led the trips for several years before deciding to move to New Orleans so they could contribute to the rebuilding more fully.

Under MA's leadership, All Souls ongoing commitment to New Orleans has included the following activities:

On 9 trips, 6 of them multi-generational, we volunteered at Hands On New Orleans (gutting houses), Trinity Christian Community (rehabbing houses), City Park (restoring a playground), Kingsley House (for children), lowernine.org (rehabbing houses), and Common Ground (wetlands planting and home rehab), among other locations.
The trips were formative experiences for many of the church's youth and sealed the relationships of many adults to All Souls, in addition to educating trip participants and the congregation as a whole to the needs in New Orleans after the first major disaster of the climate change century.
We raised the funds to purchase a warehouse for building materials for lowernine.org through the 50 Parties in 50 Days campaign.
We brought New Orleans clarinettist Evan Christopher and drummer Shannon Powell to DC for 3 incredible concerts that raised awareness of the struggles of the Lower 9th Ward - and the joys of New Orleans music and culture.
At the first concert, we raised $6000 which was used to fund outreach work at the Lower 9th Ward Homeownership Association -- which resulted in contact being made with about 100 pre-storm homeowners who hadn't yet returned home.
 At the last concert, we raised $27,000 to provide start-up funding for the House the 9 Program, which has leveraged this funding to line up $4 million to rebuild the homes of 34 families.
At the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, M.A. spoke from the pulpit at All Souls and half of the collection was donated to the Lower 9th Ward Homeownership Association.
A significant number of All Souls members are or have been monthly donors to the Lower 9th Ward Homeownership Association, providing crucial sustaining support for our work.
A panel at the 2017 General Assembly features MA speaking about the importance of the All Souls-New Orleans Connection to the Lower 9th Ward.

Full Description of Project

Every joyful gift rebuilds a home and resists the injustice that slows our recovery.

Our multiplier effect turns $1 given into $14.29 in construction - a total of $4 million so far.

Before Hurricane Katrina, the Lower 9th Ward was a vibrant, hard-working community where children grew up surrounded by aunts and cousins and grandparents, living in family homes that had been passed down from generation to generation. In a neighborhood that was 98% African-American, 59% of residents were homeowners and more than half had no mortgage.

Twelve years later, only 37% of Lower 9th Ward families have been able to come home.

REJOICING IN OUR UU COMMUNITY.  Against that bleak statistic and the tragedy it contains, the Lower 9th Ward Homeownership Association rejoices that UUs from across the country are helping us bring the missing families home. Our housing program grew out of the commitment made by DC’s All Souls Church Unitarian to seek justice for the displaced homeowners of the Lower 9th Ward.

With their support, we have taken $280,000 in grants and donations and turned it into $4 million worth of housing. That’s a multiplier effect—a matching grant from the federal government—of $14.29. We’re able to do this because there’s still $33 million sitting at HUD, designated for rebuilding our homes.  But every homeowner, like Darrial Sharp, needs a highly-trained advocate to press their case before funding for their home will be approved.

REBUILDING DARRIAL’S HOME.  When Darrial Sharp was three years old, his father, a longshoreman, took him down to Benton Street in the Lower Ninth Ward. There, while he played in the sand beneath a live oak tree, he watched his father build their new home with his own hands. “I can’t live forever,” his father used to say, “but you all are going to have a place to stay.”

After his father died, Darrial moved home to care for his brother, who had suffered from poor health all his life and never left the house their father built. Before Hurricane Katrina struck, he put Clarence on a plane to safety. Twelve years later, with Clarence now suffering from Alzheimer’s, they still aren’t home.

We are working with the Sharp family, and many others like them, to line up the federal funding to rebuild their home.

RESISTING INJUSTICE.  It’s no coincidence that our neighborhood has been the slowest in the city to recover. After we took the worst of the levee breaches, we confronted a cascading series of barriers—National Guard troops that kept us from our homes long after other neighborhoods had reopened; a city that turned off our water for the express purpose of improving water service elsewhere; a state grant formula that paid more in wealthy, white neighborhoods than in lower-income, African-American ones.

This is a story that repeats itself over and over again in African-American neighborhoods, from the demolition of homes during urban renewal to discrimination against black veterans while white soldiers were moving to the suburbs using GI Bill loans. And over and over again, the lasting effects of this loss reach into the next generation. Even today, the legacy of discrimination in GI Bill programs can be seen in the wealth gap between whites and non-whites, particularly in lower rates of homeownership.

In the 9, as we call it, there is still a chance to break this pattern. In large part due to our persistent advocacy, HUD has released millions of dollars for grants to displaced homeowners, if we can prove they're entitled to it. We are therefore committed to seeing that all homeowners have advocates by their side to make sure that this time they get the funds they’re entitled to. This time, with your help, they will not be left waiting on the rooftops.

YOUR GIFT WILL NOT JUST BE MATCHED – IT WILL BE MULTIPLIED!  Because we use your donations to pull federal funds into the Lower 9th Ward, every dollar you give will be transformed through the L9WHA multiplier effect.

Your gift         Multiplier       Result

$25                  $14.29             $357 – Flooring for living/dining area and kitchen

$50                  $14.29             $715 – Entire Water Sense bathroom – toilet, sink and faucet, tub, faucet and shower head, tub surround

$100                $14.29             $1,429 – Full suite of Energy Star kitchen appliances – refrigerator, stove, dishwasher, microwave

$7000              $14.29             $100,000 – Entire 2 bedroom, 1 bath home

REJOICING IN YOUR GENEROSITY.  The Lower 9th Ward has always been a place where people took care of themselves. Darrial and Clarence's father paid off the mortgage on the home he built so he could leave it to his children free and clear, but he also told them - "Now if you keep the lights on, that's on you." But sometimes, our own efforts just aren't enough. Those are the times when we rejoice in the justice-seeking and generosity of people who don't even know us, but care about us anyway. Thank you for the love you bring to the world.

If  you would like more information about our work, please visit our website at www.l9wha.org or check us out on facebook at facebook.com/l9wha.