By Lauren Lee, CNN
Three months after Hurricane Ida swept through Louisiana, the town of Jean Lafitte near New Orleans is still emerging from devastation and despair.
“Hurricane Ida is our Hurricane Katrina; it completely devastated our community,” said Mayor Tim Kerner of Jean Lafitte.
“This is the worst disaster in our history.”
Nonprofits and FEMA have been active for months, but long-term recovery efforts for the small community have been slow. Now, nonprofits including Habitat for Humanity are sending out appeals for volunteers and donors to help get the area on track.
A town destroyed
Although Jean Lafitte was only 22 miles south of downtown New Orleans, the impact of Hurricane Ida on each city was completely different. While New Orleans coped with flooding and power outages for nearly two weeks, many residents in Jean Lafitte lost everything.
Kerner told CNN the town was placed in a vulnerable position years earlier after Hurricane Katrina “when the federal government decided to build levees around the entire area next to ours.” .”
“The decision to build dikes around us causes all the water to fill up here.”
Hurricane Ida brought a little bit of everything to town.
“We had water, we had wind. Therefore, people have suffered significant water loss. Not only that, you’ve got 4 feet of mud in people’s homes,” explains Kerner.
The town, located on the Mississippi River Delta, had a system of state-administered dikes built around it, but it wasn’t enough for Hurricane Ida.
Many residents like Benny Alexie are bearing the brunt of the storm. Alexie’s house was washed away on a nearby highway.
“It took me 40 years to get where I am,” says Alexie. “It only took a few hours to lose it all.”
“What this community has to endure is unjust,” explains Kerner.
“Our most vulnerable are uninsured and ineligible for FEMA.”
Some residents are ineligible for FEMA assistance due to lack of proof of residency because of informal inheritance of homes; Others have paid insufficient insurance claims to repair and protect their homes long-term.
Kerner said that despite some progress over the past few months, the recovery of so many Jean Lafitte citizens could take years.
“They need money; They need people to come in to help build their houses and reattach their roofs.”
Habitat for humanity dedicated to long-term recovery
Habitat for Humanity has been maintained since the storm, distributing tarps and other supplies to help communities protect what remains of their homes from further damage.
“It’s not where the habitat really shines,” said Marguerite Oestreicher, executive director of the New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity.
“It’s a long-term recovery and helps people find a way to rebuild.”
Oestreicher says Jean Lafitte is the kind of community where neighbors always help their neighbors when they need it.
“Everybody is hurting right now, and the amount of work that has to be done is just overwhelming.”
This is why volunteers are so essential.
“Those are extra hands,” explains Oestreicher. “Those are the people who can enter; they can cut and gut, and they don’t have to be skilled carpenters to be useful. “
The New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity recently reopened to new volunteers. Since the coronavirus pandemic, only core or long-term volunteers like Dennis Kehoe have been on site. Kehoe has volunteered for the nonprofit since 1991. He says the job can be a unifying experience.
“It’s not just about building a home, it’s a series that teaches people about volunteering and community involvement,” says Kehoe.
“I think it’s important for communities to come together and show solidarity.”
Volunteers and necessary donations
Volunteers and financial support can help keep families in the Jean Lafitte area on track.
“Every gift of time and every donation they make will be put to good use,” says Oestreicher.
To donate to the Hurricane Ida disaster relief fund, click here.
To learn more about how you can volunteer your time, review Habitat for Humanity volunteer page.
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https://kesq.com/news/2021/12/01/hurricane-ida-recovery-is-slow-for-louisiana-bayou-communities-and-nonprofits-need-your-help-2/ Hurricane Ida slow recovery for bayou communities in Louisiana – and the nonprofits that need your help