New Orleans, Four Years Later

At the end of this month, we will mark the fourth anniversary of one of the most devastating storms in U.S. history: Hurricane Katrina. And while the upcoming anniversary is time to celebrate how much we’ve accomplished in the last four years, it’s also a great time to raise awareness that the work in New Orleans is far from done.

According to the latest data, close to 80 percent of the city is back overall. But in the poorest neighborhoods, the numbers are much lower. In the Lower 9th Ward, only 19 percent of the residents have come home. The reasons? Not enough affordable houses and apartments. And basic services are still not available. Only one of three schools has reopened. Neither of the two hospitals that provided health care in the Lower 9th Ward are back in business. And there still is no grocery store in the neighborhood.

When actor Brad Pitt first toured the Lower 9th Ward after Katrina, he was shocked by the devastation he saw — and he set out to start a nonprofit called Make It Right. Make it Right is building 150 new, affordable homes using core green building principles in the Lower 9th Ward. The homes they’re building incorporate the more environmentally friendly design practices while also being engineered to help them withstand another natural disaster. 

I saw the devastation first-hand when I toured New Orleans in 2007. A friend and I took a day out of our vacation to help build a home in the Upper 9th Ward — in a neighborhood where only two houses on the block were occupied, and one family was living in a trailer parked on what used to be their front lawn. It was an unforgettable experience.

It was incredible to me to see the differences between the tourist areas–where you couldn’t even tell there was a hurricane a couple of years ago–and the poor neighborhoods, where large families with small children were living in structures that lacked doors, windows and interior walls. One particular woman we were working with at the house was truly amazing–she was in her mid-20s, a single mom of three kids, and she worked graveyard shifts at two jobs in halfway houses for at-risk youth. After working all night, she came to volunteer until 3 p.m. at the worksite, then picked up her kids from school, fixed them dinner and slept for a few hours before going back to work. I couldn’t imagine how she did it — and maintained such an exceptional attitude.

The people of New Orleans still need our attention. Brad Pitt is building homes — and you can help by raising awareness about the situation in the Lower 9th Ward this Katrina anniversary! Sign the pledge that you won’t forget the victims of Hurricane Katrina.

Photo courtesy Make It Right.


Karl M.
Karl M8 years ago

I'm not about to get into a pissing contest here but it seems to me that when the poor black population gets royally screwed and the affluent white population makes a killing, racism just might be involved.

It might interest Nancy H to know that when New Orleans was built and for most of it's history, we had a lot of natural protection from any storm surge. It was the Corps of Engineers and the oil companies that built the shipping channels and drained the wetlands that once protected NOLA.

I doubt very much that you were here if all you heard was the weather was to blame for the forced displacement of the 9th Ward residents.

This will be my last comment.

Nancy H.
Nancy H8 years ago

KarlM...racism was going on New Orleans long before any Bush went into politics, get off the "hate Bush" wagon. Louisiana has "black politicians" who also played a role in putting off the rebuild of New Orleans, RACE hell, it was MONEY and GREED! Their own Mayor who is also black was greedy and you don't see him pouring any of his "riches" to help build the ninth ward now do you? I've been there I helped with the clean up, I saw with my own eyes black and white working together and they weren't blaming anyone but the weather! New Orleans is not the only place that devastation has hit and some areas are never rebuilt. New Orleans shouldn't have been built so far below sea level anyway, stupid forefathers didn't have a brain in their heads when it was built, how can you build a wall to keep water back when you are below sea level in the first place?

Carol H.
Past Member 8 years ago

I know there will people out there that will get angry at me but I don't mean this in a bad way at all I promice.
But there are some area that can't be rebuilt they are way to low and it will cost so much we just don't have it not that it isn't worth it because everyone has a right to live somewhere but some areas are just not places to live. The areas are good areas to protect the land that is higher I don't think that they will be able to build the walls high enough to protect the areas that are so low.

Adrian H.
Adrian H8 years ago

As a Katrina Survivor I am still saddened by the length of time it has taken to "repair/rebuild" New Orleans. As mentioned in the article, many of the areas frequented by tourists were the first & most cared for locations - making it seem like nothing happened. It is when you go to the lower income or poverty stricken areas where families actually lived - you see a totally different story. And what about the CBD (central business district) with the empty offices because large companies have not returned. Or the lack of grocery stores, gas stations, discount stores, various other small businesses which make it difficult for people to get the basic necessities in these areas. Not to mention the jobs that are not available as a result of less businesses. The rental housing available is much higher than it was pre-Katrina. These things, along with a long list of others, need to be considered when evaluating progress. I long to go home but can not. Much more work must be done before I can afford to support myself & be able to afford housing. I look forward to that day but it is still far off in the future at the pace things are moving.

Karl M.
Karl M8 years ago

Guess I need to double up on the Bilberry. Coulda' sworn the article said "black". My apologies to LiAnna.

The fact remains the government's response to Katrina was and still is motivated more by racism than by any humanitarian desire to actually help the storm's victims.

As Rita b. pointed out, the powers that be in NOLA had been trying to get rid of the poor and black majority for a long time.

Thanks to the racism sanctioned by Bush & Co, they finally succeeded.

Sissy M.
Christina M8 years ago

I will never forget the horror.After 4 years and these poor souls still are unable to return??Makes a tragic situation even more sad.Thanks and blessings to all involved in the rebuilding.Bush you failed these people miserably~shame on you.You are a disgrace.

Sharon Y.
Sharon Y8 years ago

I'm not interested in getting into a debate over Karl M.s comment, but he is accusing the author of bad research when he writes, "I just plain don't believe LiAnna D's "latest data". New Orleans isn't now, nor was it ever "80% Black. Where did she find that nonsense?".

She didn't, those are his words. He misread the sentence and asked where she got information that only he read.

My point was by starting out with an obvious error, his entire argument lacks credibility. He's calling for honesty, yet his comment is based on a sentence that only exists in his head. Whatever point he was trying to make was diluted by his inability to read and comprehend the sentence on the screen in front of him and would have been more credible without the accusation directed at the author.

Remove the second paragraph and the last sentence of his comment and I would agree with it. The problem is falsely accusing the author. That is dishonest and makes the rest of the comment suspect.

Rasheedah M.
Rasheedah M8 years ago

I will be performing at two Katrina awareness events within the next two weeks. We have many survivors here in the Oakland/San Francisco Bay area and friends who have relatives there. Katrina awareness is 24/7/365 here in Oakland,CA!

Love and Gratitude

rita b.
Rita B8 years ago

In fact Karl M. is exactly correct in everything he says. He is not accussing the writer of this article of being racist rather the politicians of New Orleans, Louisana and the Federal government under Bush.
New Orleans was the only place in LA. there was a Demoratic Majority and the Republicans wanted to get rid of them and since many of them were black, flooding the 9th ward and making sure they never came back was the perfect solution. I am not partisan, I have no use for either party, although there are a few good individuals in both parties. If you think I am exaggerating I suggest checking out several documentaries on the subject or go to
Several of the posters here have mentioned major contributing factors. Here is one exampleof blantant racism, a black pastor was in the process of rebuilding his church in the 9th ward with private funds. The city of New Orleans condemmed it, even though it was in good shape. While he was away for the day, they came in and leveled it. He was also a community organizer.
One the documentaries, I viewed showed how the white politicians of N.O. tryed to destoy the 9th ward in an earlier decade, they actually dynomited the levee, telling the people there they would provide new housing for them. They didn't.
Another documentary showed a professor from a local University who come up with an excellent evacution plan. They threatening to fire him and instead went with a plan with no public transportation, no auto - dr

Catherine W.
Catherine V8 years ago

The main "awareness" that needs to be raised. Is why has 60% of the funds to rebuild the gulf, not just New Orleans, gone unused!?!
Many say that it has been swindled away by corrupt contractors and, of course, politicians. Politicians say that it is caught up in red tape.
The US Army corps of engineers even received $8.4 BILLION to restore the levees but only 20% has been used..
Now you also have to ask the Red Cross. What happened to the $300 million that "we Americans" raised on their televised benefit a week after Katrina hit? Which was said it was to be used to help rebuild the gulf!
I had a friend that worked for the Red Cross for years, when Katrina hit but he quit a few months after because he was sickened by all the corruption within the organization.
Its pretty sad that the money is there to rebuild but many seem to want that money for themselves instead of rebuilding!