Mayor Landrieu Recognizes AmeriCorps for Their Service to the City
On April 1, 2014, Mayor Mitch Landrieu recognized local AmeriCorps members as part of the Mayor’s Day of Recognition for National Service. NOAHH AmeriCorps were on hand at the event, and our Blight Reduction Coordinator Michelle Conway took the time to share her thoughts:
“Given my position as Blight Reduction Coordinator at New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity, hearing the mayor honor and thank service members took on particular significance for me. Blight reduction has been a major focus of the administration since 2010. At the time, there were more than 43,755 blighted (vacant, abandoned) properties in New Orleans. The mayor set the goal of reducing that number by 10,000 by 2014. In January of this year, the City of New Orleans announced the achievement of that goal.”
NOAHH has been expanding its programs to better achieve our mission for several years. Among the programs designed for addressing blight and neighborhood revitalization are our New Orleans HUG Initiative, Attack the Block program, A Brush With Kindness program, and several other construction projects that are still being developed, including weatherization projects and our rehab program.
As Blight Reduction Coordinator, Conway is one of our key personnel with the NOAHH rehab program. NOAHH has rehabilitated many homes before and after the storm, but recently the affiliate has begun to focus more on these efforts. Often, individuals seek to donate homes to the organization, and NOAHH assesses each one to determine if the property will fit our programs. NOAHH will then rehab properties for our homeownership program or to be made available for rental purposes. Some donated properties are beyond repair, but their materials are salvaged for our ReStore or other rehab projects. In recent years, NOAHH has done 7 rehabs throughout the area.
“My VISTA position is focused on reporting abandoned and vacant properties, and creating strategies to address blight in Habitat’s target neighborhoods. This requires a great deal of coordination with a number of City departments. Working closely with an administration that places importance on streamlining the blight reduction process makes my challenging task more manageable.”
The city has worked with NOAHH on several properties, including our most recent acquisition on Mandeville St. Some donated properties have liens or other issues that the city waives in the interest of combatting blight. According to Conway, this combined effort is the key to neighborhood revitalization.
“When the City of New Orleans and organizations like New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity have their goals in alignment—-in this case, revitalizing neighborhoods—-they are much easier to achieve. Meeting Mayor Landrieu and hearing him thank AmeriCorps members for their service was a great reminder of our common goals.”