I spent two days in New Orleans working with Camp Restore,
a church that is working with community members to help restore
homes and yards and neighborhoods. People come from all over the
United States to stay at the Prince of Peace church in St. Bernard
Parish, which they have renovated into a camp for the "mission workers."
There are bunk beds and showers and a mess hall.
The first day, I worked along Bundy Street right across from the church in a
neighborhood called Evangeline Oaks. A tangled growth of weeds and grass
had overgrown the neighborhood entryway and trash and limbs that had
not been cleaned since Katrina were scattered on the ground.
The homes along the road were mostly abandoned, and their lawns
had grown up, some to several feet high. The city or county had
just started fining homeowners $100 a day if they don't maintain
their lawns... even if they are not there to keep it up! All of
the homes were gutted. We cleaned up this area, replanted flowers
on the neighborhood sign, and made it look like a place that was alive again.
What struck me this first day was finding -- underneath all the
overgrown grass and roots -- "Meals Ready to Eat" that had been
airdropped to the residents during Katrina. It reminded me of the
human side of the tragedy; the reality of these people stuck in their
homes with no food, scared, helpless, having lost everything they own,
and in some cases dying.