I just finished my sixth visit to the New Orleans area. As I visited with residents, town leaders, and St. Bernard Project staff, a couple of things came up in the conversation over and over again.
First, of course, is the gratitude the residents and town leaders have for the staff of St. Bernard Project (SBP) and the volunteers who have traveled from across the globe to rebuild the community. One parish council member credits SBP with "having an outstanding role in helping people get back into housing that far surpasses the work of any other organization working in the area." SBP has built 230 homes to date.
Another common thread within each conversation is the changing culture and dynamics within each neighborhood. These good people who have struggled for so hard for so long to get home, are now dealing with the fact that St. Bernard Parish will never again be the same as it once was. People yearn for the close-knit neighborhoods they remembered before Katrina. Yet many neighbors have not returned. Many homes were bulldozed to the ground. Renters have moved in where there were once homeowners. The neighborhoods are now more diverse. The intergenerational friendships they treasured have, in many cases, been permanently dismantled by Katrina.
I have no doubt, though, that these people who endured so much to return home have the courage and generosity of spirit to rebuild the camaraderie and sense of community they so love.