New Orleans

New Orleans, Three Years After

The Gulf Coast—and New Orleans, specifically—is far from recovered after being ravaged in 2005 by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Churches and faith-based organizations have responded to the humanitarian need with outstanding leadership, at tremendous cost. For example, despite the $104 million in unrecovered property losses following Hurricane Katrina, the Catholic archdiocese of New Orleans has committed $89 million for long-term hurricane recovery, according to its 2008 financial report.

* 850,000. Number of residents the New Orleans archdiocese has served since the hurricanes.

* 14,000. Number of New Orleans families who receive disaster housing rental assistance vouchers, which expire next March.

* 151,128,294. Pounds of food provided by the New Orleans archdiocese to individuals and faith-based and community nonprofits who feed the hungry.

* 15. Percentage of residents who say they’ve been diagnosed with a serious mental illness, up from 5 percent in 2006.

* 46. Percentage increase in rent paid by New Orleans residents since the hurricanes.

—Jeannie Choi

Sources: “Post-Katrina Financial Report 2008” (Archdiocese of New Orleans); “New Orleans Three Years After the Storm” (The Kaiser Family Foundation, 2008); “The New Orleans Index” (The Brookings Institution and Greater New Orleans Community Data Center); The New York Times.

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Sojourners Magazine December 2008
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Demolition of Public Housing Approved

Despite protests at New Orleans City Hall last December, the city council voted unanimously for a federal plan that will demolish 4,500 public housing units in favor of developing fewer units on a mixed-income model. With rents increased by up to 45 percent for the new units, former public housing residents are calling city officials to repair and reopen the existing units so that the homeless and displaced can move back into places they can afford.

Church leaders and housing activists have challenged the council’s decisions. Charles Jen­kins, the Epis­co­pal bishop of Louisiana, stated in an open letter to the council, “[T]he issue before us is about people, not buildings, and it is primarily a moral issue.” He pointed out that the city’s homeless population has nearly doubled since Hurricanes Rita and Katrina—from 6,300 to 12,000 people—and urged the council to develop alternative sites for the mixed-income housing since the shortage of low-income housing will worsen once the 30,000 people still occupying government-owned trailers are moved out.

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Sojourners Magazine April 2008
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