Star Power Helps Residents Return Home
We all remember seeing people rescued from rooftops, homes destroyed beyond recognition, heartbreaking cries for help and the appalling response from the federal government, in the days shortly after Hurricane Katrina. So as New Orleans continues its long road to recovery, why would anyone return to the city, especially to the Lower 9th Ward? Questioning a 9th Ward resident’s motives and desires to return irritates Melba Leggett-Barnes. “I hear people say that and I tell them to mind their business,” Leggett-Barnes says, with an air of aggravation in her voice.
The 52-year-old is one of what can be called “the lucky 13.” Leggett-Barnes lost her that was footsteps away from one of the levees breached by Hurricane Katrina. Four years later, help from a Hollywood A-list star has erased the heartache and frustration that consumed every minute of Leggett-Barnes’ day, as she tried for three years to make North Carolina home. “At first, I wasn’t planning on coming back because there was nothing to come back to,” says Leggett-Barnes.
The “Make It Right” homes cost about $150,000. According to the foundation, half of the cost is covered by various grants and loans, homeowners are responsible for the other half. Sixty-five additional families are in the final stages of purchasing their return home through the program.
What she and returning residents who live in their new homes also have is an emotional void filled and the weight of instability lifted. Every day they walk up the steps and open the door to a place many of us take for granted, home.