Hurricane Katrina is one of the country's most devastating natural disasters to occur in the past two decades. The toll that it caused led to the deaths of more than 1,800 people and $160 billion in damages.
Many of the survivors were shipped to states across the country and those who stayed were offered as much as $30,000 in order to hurricane-proof their homes and try to salvage what was left of their lives. For them, it felt like a new beginning, as they clung to hope that things were finally looking up. However, one day a knock on the door from the sheriff would throw them into freefall yet again.
The Office of Community Development, a part of the state's Disaster Recovery Unit was taking them to court to recoup the funds provided citing a violation of their grant agreements.
The recipients had been awarded the grants through the federally approved Road Home Program to assist them with elevating their homes above the ground in case of another Katrina scale catastrophe. As a part of the process, representatives told eligible homeowners that they could use the funds for repairs if needed, as an alternative to releveling the properties.
With tens of thousands of homes still unlivable at the time, more than 3,500 homeowners took advantage of the process to make their properties whole again. This number comprised at least 10% of the grants total recipients across the city's multiple parishes.
“I’ve been through a lot with this house. “I can’t worry about this, because I have a bad heart. I was sick for a long time worrying about things. I learned how to pray more and stress less.” -Cherylyn Davis, New Orleans resident
Since 2009, the city of New Orleans has paid a law firm $11 million dollars to pursue litigation against homeowners in regards to the misuse of funds, or failure to elevate the homes. In their defense, many of them cited the lack of funds to complete the process which in reality cost up to $100,000.
As residents await their turn in court, hoping to tell their side of the story, they face bankruptcy property liens and potential homelessness.