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We’re at peace here

Irwin Livers and his wife, Deloris, were living with their two grandsons about eight blocks from New Orleans’ historic French Quarter when Hurricane Katrina struck in August 2005. Having ridden out many storms, they chose not to evacuate.




Irwin Livers and his wife, Deloris, were living with their two grandsons in New Orleans, when Hurricane Katrina struck.

“When the storm first hit, it didn’t look like nothing much,” recalled Livers, 55. “But the water went to rising. By the time morning came, we saw Dumpsters floating down the street. I looked out the window at one point and saw my son-in-law’s van floating by.”

Livers heard on the radio that everybody had to evacuate the flooded area, so the family set out to seek shelter at the Superdome.

“We had to walk through contaminated water up to our noses,” he said. “I had to hold my grandchildren up over my head.”

The situation deteriorated rapidly, with reports of looting and gunplay happening all around them. Once in the relative safety of the Superdome, the family’s suffering only got worse.

“We stayed on the 50-yard line for four or five days,” Livers said. “We couldn’t stay upstairs because of the defecation running out from the bathrooms. And we could hardly get any food. My son-in-law would stand in line for rations and take them back to my wife and the kids. We didn’t eat much ourselves.”

To escape the dreadful conditions in the Superdome, Livers and his family boarded one of the last buses bound for the Astrodome in Houston, Texas. They slept on cots there for several days until the city of Houston issued housing vouchers for apartments.

The long-term solution was much more palatable to the Livers family. Soon after moving into an apartment, they qualified as partners with Houston Habitat for Humanity and began the process of getting their own house. Now the family is happily settled in a quiet home in the Carver Court community.

Livers, a native of New Orleans who had lived there his entire life before Katrina, is a retired veteran from the Vietnam War era. He still suffers from some medical conditions from his years in the military, and also has post-traumatic stress syndrome from Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath.

The nightmare of the past few years, though, has put many things in perspective for Livers and his family. He and his wife are raising two grandsons: Brian Washington, 15; and Lavinsky Washington, 7.

“It’s been a real good blessing for us here,” said Livers, who had never owned a home before. “We’re at peace here.

“Everybody fits together in this neighborhood,” he added. “If one of the neighbors needs to borrow something, and I’ve got it, it’s his. If the guy around the corner sees me working on my house, soon he’s out there cutting down weeds and redoing his house. Other neighbors are digging up their gardens. We all just follow suit.
If one person goes out of town, everybody watches their house.”

When asked if homeownership feels different from renting, Livers answered quickly: “It’s a lot different. You don’t have to worry about eviction notices. And you have a sense of pride. It’s like having stock in America.”