Putting Down Roots

AmeriCorps Member Makes New Orleans Home

Tomas Roy has carpentry in his blood. His father and uncles were all carpenters, and he grew up in the home they built for his family. Wanting to learn to work with his hands, he started volunteering with Habitat affiliates. After spending time with affiliates around the South, he settled in New Orleans, near his father’s family, and decided to set down roots. After working as a freelance web designer for a while, he signed on with New Orleans Habitat as an AmeriCorps member.

AmeriCorps is a federal program designed to help younger folks give back around the country. Tomas spent a year learning not just how to build, but how to lead. He gained new skills and, after his year of service was up, he signed on to the NOAHH Construction staff as a full-fledged carpenter. Living together with the other AmeriCorps members in 2021, he connected with the small community in the Upper Ninth Ward block where he lived, only to buy a lot on that same block.

He was attracted to Habitat because he wanted to help build communities. “Homeownership connects you to a place in a way that renting doesn’t,” he said. “Getting away from renting and getting into a home is more than building generational wealth. I think the effects are deeper in a sense that you’re tied to a place in a greater way. You’re less likely to move and more likely to have relationships with your neighbors. You’re more likely to care about the block you live on. We build in the Lower Ninth Ward, which had one of the very high homeownership rates before Hurricane Katrina. I think it’s special that we’re trying to bring back that legacy to the area.”