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.