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New growth -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1

New growth

Celebrating five years of rebuilding since hurricanes Katrina and Rita
Photos by Ezra Millstein



Tulip trees in New Orleans are among the many signs of rebirth and renewal along the U.S. Gulf Coast. Photo by Ezra Millstein


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New Growth

The hurricanes of 2005 altered the history of the U.S. Gulf Coast, claiming more than 1,000 lives, inflicting major damage to more than a half-million homes, and displacing more than 1 million people.

“Sometimes we just see how much work remains to be done,” says Wendy McDonald, executive director of Bay-Waveland Habitat for Humanity in Bay St. Louis, Miss. “But every time we see a homeowner move into a new home, it’s renewal for us.”

Habitat has been a presence in Gulf Coast communities for more than two decades. In the wake of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, though, new Habitat affiliates were created, others were merged, and the capacity of affiliates throughout the region was boosted exponentially. Over the past five years, Habitat has helped build more than 2,200 decent, affordable homes with low-income, hurricane-affected families in Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas and Alabama.

New partnerships—with government agencies, other like-minded nonprofit organizations, corporations and others—have opened up new avenues for sustainable growth and changed the perception of how much can be accomplished.

“Katrina hasn’t really gone away,” says Fonda Rush, executive director of Lauderdale County Habitat in Meridian, Miss. “But five years later, we see more positive than negative. Families have been able to get into affordable housing that never could before. That’s how we measure success.” — Teresa Weaver