A Letter from Executive Director Jim Pate, 2016
We uplift each other.
In a year that has been marked by repeated tragedy, it is too easy to think of these hard times as fleeting. The truth is, for many, hard times are the norm. For the family struggling in inadequate living conditions, the litany of bad news is not an anomaly, but more of the same. In neighborhoods of New Orleans where homeownership rates are lower, where over a third of renters pay more than 50% of their income for housing, where crime is high and blight is around every corner, the average life expectancy is less than 60 years of age.
And so we must uplift each other. This is why every home dedication continues, even after three decades, to bring joy. We know the lives of our partner families are changed by homeownership, and since we build not just homes, but also communities—like on America Street, which has been completely transformed in three years—that change can mean better (and longer) lives for entire neighborhoods. Earlier this year, we celebrated the dedication of ten homes, a year after we had finished ten homes in ten days on the same street during Build-A-Thon. On that one block of America Street, over 23 children have new yards to play in and new friends to play with. On that one block that was once blighted houses, a brand new community has been born.
Because we’ve seen time and again the deep impact of the work you have made possible by your generosity, we are grateful to have begun building in the Lower Ninth Ward. Already, we have built one homes there this year, as well as two affordable rental units, and in the coming years, we plan to build dozens more. As the Lower Ninth is uplifted, palpable benefits come to those who live there: crime rates shrink, life expectancy increases, businesses return—and, remarkably, as homes are built higher (literally uplifted), insurance rates decrease, making it more affordable to live there. As life becomes more stable, families save more and feel a greater sense of pride in their homes, becoming more independent of government resources and more invested in their communities.
As we have seen on America Street and in Musicians’ Village, where we build, others follow. The Lower Ninth is an under-sung but critical part of New Orleans, a neighborhood with historically high homeownership rates, where so much of our unique local culture was born, and where flood waters wrought unfathomable destruction. We look forward to the day when we have 100 affordable units built and hundreds more have joined us, reinvigorating one of our most important communities.
This year has been one of partnership and preparation. In May, we began a partnership with local musical icon Big Freedia, who is now helping us raise awareness about affordable housing and financial literacy, and in June, we welcomed our first Covenant House graduate into one of our affordable rentals, a major milestone for our unique partnership and for the graduate on his journey to independence. We have also begun planning two blitz builds for 2017. Next spring, Women Build will bring together a diverse group women from across New Orleans to build a home for a female-headed household, and next fall, Unity Build will bring together people of different faiths to build homes and break down barriers. Earlier this year, we also started planning the construction of our second ReStore, which will be located in Kenner and help us raise awareness of our mission.
Throughout the year, your support has uplifted us. It is our privilege to work with so many of you who have made our mission a part of your lives. Together, we will continue to revitalize New Orleans and uplift our communities.
New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity