Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Westwego (Day 3)

This morning at 5:30 a.m. the alarm went off!! It didn't really matter because neither of us had slept well due to yet, another, storm that rolled through the area, dumping a ton more rain. Naturally it wasn't complete without a spectacular lighting and thunder show!! YIKES!!

But I digress. Why, you ask, did the alarm go off at such an ungodly hour??  Well today we volunteered with New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity (NOAHH)!!! This is something we have wanted to do since retirement and we finally got to lend a hand at a home in the Upper Ninth Ward.

I will tell you the little bit I know about NOAHH. This home is already spoken for. A gentleman, his girlfriend and their 3 children are currently residing in a small duplex. It only has two bedrooms, they share a kitchen with the other tenants and they have no stove at all. In order to qualify for a home under the NOAHH program, a person must have a full time job with a reasonably decent credit history. They must prove that they are living in undesirable conditions and are requiring a change. Now, once they are accepted into the program, it goes something like this: They get to pick their own lot, out of the HH inventory. Currently in New Orleans, HH has approximately 150 lots but normally there are about 15 to choose from that are "site-prepped" . This gentleman was awarded a 4 bedroom home as he has 3 children. They are allowed to pick the exterior colour, flooring, kitchen cabinetry, etc. Habitat does all the interior painting the same colour, even the trim. It is easier than having volunteer painters have to try to "cut-in". So all doors, trims, window jams, walls, ceiling are done the same colour (the new homeowner can change it once they are in). 

The homeowner will end up paying about $600-700 per month for 20 years. This includes property taxes, mortgage payment, insurance, (even flood & termite). The homeowner MUST stay in the home for a minimum of 10 years. It cannot be rented or leased out.
In exchange for all this the new homeowner has the following obligations. He must put in 100 hours at the Habitat Re-Store facility (like a second hand building supply store), 150 hours back into his own house during construction and 100 hours back to someone else's house. The new homeowners are also given classes on home maintenance, a schedule on what and where to check for things. Also, budgeting classes and even cooking classes. NOAHH is trying to really help improve people's lives in all ways. 

Nolan was in charge of this site. He is originally from Chicago area and he is apparently "freezing" here in Louisiana, apparently not what he bargained for four months ago!! He is full time staff with NOAHH. One of the interesting things he told us is that by the time the house is finished, approximately 1,000 people will have helped in it's construction, most of whom have little or no knowledge of construction, from any point of view. He says it is amazing to see it come together. Some parts of the job are actually "subbed" out, like the more detailed things like the electrical, plumbing and dry walling, it's just easier and everything must be done to code and is inspected each step of the way. But, just a little bit from many people makes a difference, thus the reason why we have wanted to help out to an area that was so devastated. We had made available to NOAHH our time for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. They could only manage to put us on this site for Wednesday. (which is strange again as Nolan said he could have really used us yesterday). I guess they make up the schedule and if some of the volunteers don't show up (...gasp???) then they can be short-handed, as they were yesterday. Too bad as we could certainly have helped then as well. Problem with today was that much of the work needed to be done outside and it was a raging mud-wallow out there so that was cancelled. We were all kept busy at small and large tasks inside. But, Nolan decided that a shortened work day was in order. Normally they get started at 7:45 a.m. and finish at 3:30 p.m. (with a one hour lunch break). At any rate, we were glad to be a tiny part of something bigger.

So with all that information under your belts, here are the pictures from our day.

The drive in past downtown New Orleans - think it might rain??
The site was about 18 miles from the state park we are staying at.
Just to refresh everyone's memory, this is what 80% of New Orleans looked like
after the floodwalls gave way after the storm surge in the lake. Remember, it was the floodwalls that really caused so much of the devastation, even more than the storm itself. 
This will make a pretty nice home, approx. 1200 sq. ft. 

Everyone starting to get themselves sorted out.

I tasked myself with sweeping out all the carpenter debris out from in between
the studs and around the rooms. Makes for a safer workplace!!
See these steel bars? They are screwed with a top and bottom board to screw (temporarily)
into the windows for security. Nolan said he was surprised each day that he came
to the home and it had not been broken into. Bit of a tough area here. It's a bit
sad that people would break into these homes, knowing everyone was trying to
help put this area back together, isn't it?
You can see Doug & Gunter with their "posse", putting up the first temporary,
window security system. Nice job guys!! Later I helped him on these.
I think there were 12 windows altogether.....
Sorting out more tasks..... 

Next, Doug & I were tasked with adding caulking that seals and prevents
any up or down draft into the attic or under the home during a fire. It is put on 
any place there are pipes and electrical wires that go upwards through the
top studs or down into below the house.  
The house next door is actually for sale. Anyone want a "fixer-upper"
in the historic Upper Ninth Ward of New Orleans?? It is so rotten looking
that we were amazed that it was still standing. There are also still
lots of houses here that have the search & rescue "X" on them.......  


Bit of a worn out neighbourhood.....
So that was our day. No pretty pictures today, just work things but SO worthwhile and we both feel really good about even helping out a little bit. So many great people involved in these programs. I made a little silent wish in my heart for the family. I hope they have good health, good safety and a wonderful life. This will, hopefully, make an amazing new start for them. Good luck!!
We have really enjoyed ourselves here in Louisiana. I am not sure why, but I did not think I would come to like it as much as I have. Laid back, nice people and beautiful scenery. Thanks Louisiana - especially for the free laundry!!
Tomorrow we leave here. We will be travelling along the I-10 (again) for about 350 miles so it will be a long day (Hey, I might even use the old crock-pot!!). We are travelling through the states of Mississippi and Alabama on our way into the Florida "panhandle". First stop is at Grayton Beach for 2 nights. We wanted to stay for the whole week but they are very busy so we have to hop over to another state park (Henderson Beach State Park) for Saturday and then we come back to Grayton Beach State Park on Sunday where we stay until the morning of Friday March 7th. After that....who knows where!!
Just a word of warning. Not sure of the internet situation at the next spot. We do know that we can walk (30 minutes) or ride into the cute little town of Grayton Beach and that there are spots there to use the internet. We may have to do that each day, not sure. Just don't worry if you don't see us up on the board on Thursday, okay? But, to be fair, it is nice to have folks thinking about us!!
Thought for the Day: Many hands make light work.


  1. Good things are being done there in the ninth! It's nice you got the chance to donate some time and effort!

  2. Maybe I missed it, but have you used your Harvest Hosts pass yet?