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Community in St Bernard & Orleans Parishes Pre-Katrina | St. Bernard Project

St. Bernard Project

Rebuilding the Homes and Lives of Katrina Survivors

Community and Storm

Click Above to Watch How New Orleans Flooded After Katrina







New Orleans 

The People We Serve:

SBP assists residents from industrious, working class neighborhoods in St. Bernard and Orleans Parish neighborhoods including Chalmette, Violet, Meraux, Gentilly, the Lower Ninth Ward, New Orleans East, and the 7th Ward. These are communities who hold potluck dinners to benefit families in need and where local fishermen and shrimpers give part of their daily catch to the less fortunate. Before Hurricane Katrina, generations of families lived within blocks of one another. Neighbors could trace their friendships back to their grandparents and beyond.

For many residents that we assist, their savings were tied to their homes. In the years before Katrina, insurance companies rezoned St. Bernard and areas of New Orleans out of the flood plain, so most residents no longer had flood insurance after decades of paying for it. When Katrina hit the people of St. Bernard and New Orleans lost everything. All but eight of the 27,000 homes in St. Bernard Parish and 80 percent of the 250,000 homes in New Orleans were flooded and rendered uninhabitable.

The first rescue crews into St. Bernard, five days after the storm, were the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. After two to four weeks, the water was gone as were neighbors, friends, and family, but people wanted to come back to the place they call home.

Residents have endured heartbreak and tribulation in their effort to return. The community, vibrancy, culture, and courage in the New Orleans area cannot be found anywhere else in the country. Knowing this, the people of this region will not let it go easily. Moreover, having known them, we cannot let that happen either.


  • The population of St. Bernard Parish was 67,000 and there were 27,000 homes and 14,000 businesses.
  • The population of New Orleans was 455,000 and there were 191,428 occupied structures.
  • The unemployment rate was 4%.
  • In St. Bernard, the homeownership rate was 74%; in the New Orleans neighborhoods where we work, it was between 50% and 70%.
  • Median family income was $36K.
  • Senior citizens comprised 50% percent of the population prior to the storm.
  • Residents worked as fishermen, in the trades, at refineries and in the service industry.


  • 100% of the homes in St. Bernard Parish were rendered uninhabitable
  • 70% of home in New Orleans were deemed uninhabitable.
  • The New Orleans area had standing water of 4 to 25 feet for up to 4 weeks.
  • Homes, clothes, furniture, pictures, keepsakes, cars and tools were destroyed.
  • In St. Bernard, a more than half the population has returned.
  • In New Orleans, 85% of the population has return; but in certain neighborhoods, the return rate is much lower (just 24% of residents have returned to the Lower Ninth Ward).
  • Big businesses are starting to emerge more than five years later (Wal-Mart, Lowe’s, Home Depot, etc.).
  • 8,000 families in the New Orleans area still can’t afford housing and have to compromise with expensive or substandard living conditions.


New York & New Jersey

SBP currently operates  in New York and New Jersey. The communities of Rockaway, New York and Sea Bright, New Jersey have long served as beach paradises for surrounding neighbors. Various attractions, such as the Rockaway Boardwalk and Rockaway’s Playland Amusement Park, created popular tourist attractions for those looking to escape the heat of the city during summer months in favor of the cool ocean breeze. Sea Bright was originally named “Nauvoo”, a Sephardic Hebrew term commonly used by Mormon Leader Joseph Smith, which means “beautiful or pleasant place”.

In October 2012, Superstorm Sandy made landfall. Its impact was monumental – over 100,000 residences were damaged or destroyed, and up to 2,000,000 people were left without power during the harsh weather conditions. Hundreds of lives were lost. As communities based on the shoreline, both Rockaway and Sea Bright were hit particularly hard by the storm.

Many of the families impacted by Sandy did not have flood insurance, and are still unable to return to their homes. Other families with nowhere else to turn are living in their moldy, water-logged homes.

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