What Habitat has accomplished since Katrina
Ten years ago this fall, hurricanes Katrina and Rita launched a chain of natural and man-made disasters that displaced more than 1 million people and changed the face of the U.S. Gulf Coast forever.
With an established presence in the region and a then brand-new CEO, Habitat for Humanity began to respond immediately and pledged to stay for the long haul.
With a look back at all that has been accomplished — and recognition of the work that continues — we celebrate the strength and stability that thousands of Habitat homeowners once again claim as their own.
Together, hurricanes Katrina and Rita became one of the most destructive disasters in United States’ history. The storms destroyed homes, livelihoods and infrastructure across hundreds of miles of coastline from Alabama to Texas.
Immediately after Hurricane Katrina hit, Habitat launched Operation Home Delivery, an orchestrated approach to long-term recovery and a comprehensive, collaborative rebuilding effort. It all began when Rockefeller Plaza in New York City became “Humanity Plaza,” as NBC’s “Today” show and Warner Music Group joined forces with Habitat to build house frames around the clock for five straight days.
Soon, volunteers throughout the U.S. and Canada were building house frames that were then shipped for use in Gulf recovery efforts. Here, a shipping container loaded with Habitat house frames was loaded onto a barge in the Mississippi River in St. Louis for transport to the coast.
National Build on the Mall
In November, America Builds on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., brought together members of Congress and volunteers from every state to build more houses for the Gulf.
Heart of America
In the wake of the two storms, donations and support came from every corner of the world — from individuals, but also from corporations, congregations and celebrities.
Major League Baseball, for example, sponsored the construction of Habitat houses during the 2005 World Series in Houston, at the All-Star Game in Pittsburgh and with a number of local teams, including San Diego, pictured here.
On May 21, 2007, former President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, joined Habitat CEO Jonathan Reckford and other volunteers to help raise the walls of houses No. 1,000 and No. 1,001 in St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana.
In May 2008, Habitat’s commitment to rebuilding continued with the 25th annual Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Work Project. During the week, the Carters joined thousands of volunteers at build sites from Biloxi, Mississippi, to New Orleans. In total, more than 250 houses were built or rehabilitated by the end of 2008 as part of the overall Carter Work Project.
2015 AmeriCorps Build-a-Thon
From day one, AmeriCorps members have played a significant role in Habitat’s recovery and rebuilding efforts. They helped to remove debris and clean more than 2,500 homes in the weeks after the storm, and they’ve been building ever since, including this year’s Build-a-Thon held in eastern New Orleans to commemorate the rebirth of the Gulf Coast.
“Habitat made this possible”
All of this work — and so much more — means renewed hope for families like Tracey Davison’s. Davison fled the rising waters of Katrina with a few suitcases and her youngest daughter on her hip. Her young family took up life on the move — first to a friend’s home, then a relative’s, followed by a docked cruise ship, then a FEMA trailer. Her Habitat house in Pascagoula, Mississippi, is one of more than 6,000 built along the Gulf Coast by Habitat in the years since the storm. “Living in this house is on the most uplifting things in my life,” she says today. “That is the part of Katrina that I don’t mind talking about.”