The Vanessa Anderson family -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1

The Vanessa Anderson family

Vanessa Anderson, a radiology file technician at Tulane University Hospital, shares a cramped shotgun house with her daughters Vivian, 19 (in red shirt), and Lacrena, 23; and granddaughters Rasheeda and Unique.

‘It’s like going home’

Vanessa Anderson and her family suffered some of the worst indignities in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Separated in the immediate chaos inside the Superdome, she and her grown children didn’t find one another until weeks later by chance at a rescue facility in Brandon, Mississippi.

“It was horrible,” Anderson said simply. “Not knowing where they were … that was the hardest thing.”

Anderson, a radiology file technician at Tulane University Hospital, lost everything in the storm. Now, she and her family share a tiny shotgun house in a nearly deserted neighborhood of New Orleans.

“It’s crowded,” she said. “But it’s a lot more comfortable than that FEMA trailer. We were like sardines in a can.”

The housing situation is only temporary, as Anderson and her family wait for their new Habitat house to be built in partnership with the New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity. The house will go up next door to her mother’s house, which is located near Habitat’s bustling Musicians’ Village, where Anderson has already earned much of her sweat equity.

“It’s going to be good for my family,” she said. “I was pretty much raised in that block where I’m moving. So it’s like going home for me. My whole childhood, I always said I was going to live in that block. It’s just like a dream.”

Construction on Anderson’s house will start during this year’s Carter Project.

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New Orleans: More than 90 houses for the Big Easy

New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity shares an important milestone with the Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Work Project this year: Both are celebrating 25 years of service.

In the past quarter-century, more than 200 families have moved into affordable homes through NOAHH. Remarkably, more than half of those homes have been built since hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and another 160 are under construction.

“Our commitment to the New Orleans area has never been stronger,” said Jim Pate, executive director of the affiliate.

NOAHH builds houses in Orleans Parish (which includes New Orleans), along with the parishes of St. Bernard, St. Charles, Plaquemines and Jefferson, all of which were devastated by wind and water spawned by the 2005 hurricanes. Since then, 60,000 volunteers have pitched in to help rebuild houses and lives.

For this special Carter Project, New Orleans Habitat is going to build more than 90 houses in the most devastated parts of the city.