Coming Home to the Lower Ninth Ward

New Orleans has rightly been referred to as a success story of hope and resilience. Among the many neighborhoods affected by the devastation of Hurricane Katrina was the Lower Ninth Ward. NOAHH has begun to play a vital role in rebuilding there, and our current partner families who have chosen lots in this neighborhood, including Henry Langlois and Tyler St. Jean, cannot wait to call it home.

Henry, a life-long resident of New Orleans and Big Chief to the Downtown Thunder Mardi Gras Indian Tribe, grew up in the Lower Ninth Ward but was displaced by Katrina. He will return to his childhood neighborhood when the construction of his new home ends next year. “I am very excited to be a homeowner in New Orleans, my city. It brings me much happiness to return to the neighborhood I grew up in. Without this program, my partner and I would not be able to purchase a home on our own.”

For Tyler, a mother and yoga teacher, purchasing her first home was a life-long goal. “When I arrived in New Orleans ten years ago, I knew immediately that I never wanted to live anywhere else. Now my daughter and I will never have to leave the city we LOVE… the city where I found myself, became a mother and discovered my gifts and purpose in life. It feels so appropriate and special to step-up and become fully invested in this community.”

Working closely with New Orleans Redevelopment Authority and the Lower 9th Ward Homeownership Association, NOAHH has built 20 home and rental units in the Lower Ninth Ward since Katrina as a part of our commitment to constructing 100 units over the next four years. In addition to the homes we have built here with our partner families, we have also provided rental opportunities for families who are interested in homeownership but do not yet meet all of the qualifications for our First-Time Homebuyer’s Program. These families rent an affordable unit from NOAHH while working closely with our Family Services staff, paying down past-due debt, and/or addressing any other barriers to homeownership.

“There were things that were on my credit report from years ago that I didn’t even know about,” says Cole Williams. Cole was a participant in our Rental Incubator Program, and has begun fulfilling her requirements for our First-Time Homebuyer’s Program. “[The program required] a lot of following up and a lot of patience. You go into it to purchase a home on paper. But really, I got my entire life together.”

What has remained constant in the Lower Ninth Ward is the faith, love, and resilience demonstrated so vividly by its residents. With a look back at all that has been accomplished – and recognition of the work that continues – we celebrate the strength and stability that Habitat partners in the Lower Ninth Ward once again claim as their own.