ABWK Homeowner Profile: John Washington

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The resilient nature of New Orleans–and New Orleanians–has never been as evident as in the case of John Washington. Sitting in his home near Gentilly Boulevard, he tells of the numerous trials he has faced since his life took a turn during Hurricane Katrina. At no point in his narrative does he suggest he ever once thought of giving up, and at no point do his actions suggest he ever sat idly by. Since the storm, he has worked constantly at returning to his home, despite all the setbacks.

As a mode equipment operator, he stayed during the storm to work at Charity Hospital. Flood waters covered his feet as he worked for a full week, and due to a combination of significant weight loss, diabetes, and contaminated water, when he finally removed his shoes and socks, his feet were in dire condition and badly infected. He began a three year odyssey during which he stayed in Texas, Colorado, and Georgia before returning to the city. During that time, because of his health problems, his feet did not properly heal.Despite this, he remained determined.

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Upon his return, he lived first with his son in New Orleans East. His home was still badly damaged from the flooding and unlivable. Amid the major damage, though, he found a strange spot of humor in the aftermath of the flood to temper his dismay and outrage.

“And the washer, it was really funny,” he said. “The washer went up so high it was sitting on top of the dryer. The dryer didn’t move due to the pipes hooked to thew all. It didn’t move, but the washer had floated all the way to up on top of the dryer.”

Like many whose homes were flooded, the obstacles to rebuilding didn’t end there. He got help from a volunteer organization to gut the home after seeing them helping out elsewhere in his neighborhood. They cleared out everything, down to the studs, and then he hired contractors. The contractors made promises, however, then took the money and left. On top of this, someone had taken to squatting in the house, and one night, Washington received a call from his son, who is a firefighter, telling him that the house was burning down. Evidence was found that someone had been living there, and they had also stolen the pipes from under the house and the air conditioning unit. Undeterred by this adversity, Washington continued to look for solutions, and part of those started with NOAHH.

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Earlier this year, his daughter contacted NOAHH on his behalf, and he applied for the ABWK program. The program addressed many of his external repair needs, and the affordable cost allowed him to focus most of his resources on the interior. For a few weeks this fall, volunteers worked on the exterior of his home, completely transforming the outside of it over the course of two weeks. The siding was fixed, the exterior painted, and many smaller jobs were completed. Progress is being made.

Around his home, much of the neighborhood has recovered. Though every house in the area was damaged and further setbacks, Washington and his neighbors share the determination to return to New Orleans and the homes they love.