This story is part of HuffPost Impact's 12 Days, 12 Cities, 12 Families series, highlighting Americans who have persevered to overcome incredible challenges and the nonprofits that helped change their lives. Check back tomorrow for the continuation of this series.
What more is there to say about Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans? After the photos and videos from 2005, the controversy and criticism, and the years of rebuilding, what more stories can there be? Of course, four years after Katrina, there are still more than 2,000 families living in FEMA trailers and thousands of others in temporary housing. Indeed, the most touching and devastating of these stories may belong to the people who, despite their best efforts, still have yet to return home.
Jennifer Lanier lived a modest, but pleasant life in St. Bernard Parish, adjacent to the Lower 9th Ward in New Orleans. She had a steady job with benefits as a waitress, and was able to provide for her three children, Zillah, Lillian and Isabella. They hesitantly took advice to evacuate their home in New Orleans the day before Katrina hit. She believed that her and her family would be able to return within a few days, so they traveled the 60 miles to Carriere, Mississippi, where they stayed with her brother.
Within a matter of days, Jennifer realized that her family had lost everything.
Her home, like all 27,000 others in St. Bernard Parish, was completely flooded. Jennifer had few places to turn, as all of her family members' homes in New Orleans were also flooded. After leaving her brother's house, the family moved in with Jennifer's grandmother in Mississippi. It wasn't until just last year that they finally returned to New Orleans, moving in with Jennifer's mother.
Over the phone, Jennifer told me that one of the hardest things for her as a parent is the inability to provide her children with the stability that she had achieved pre-Katrina. Though the hurricane took their possessions, the ensuing years have stripped her family of security and forced them into the growing population of Americans who don't know where they might sleep or get their next meal.
Now, with help from a local organization, they may finally be able to move back home.
The St. Bernard Project works to rebuild houses destroyed or damaged by Hurricane Katrina. The organization is currently attempting to prevent Jennifer's damaged house from being demolished, though they currently have insufficient funds to begin rebuilding the house. The St. Bernard Project works with many New Orleans residents who face similar circumstances, including Octave Francis in Gentilly and Darrell Betha in Meraux.
The St. Bernard Project has been working since 2006 to give these Katrina survivors the shelter and security they currently lack. In just the last few years, they've rebuilt 246 homes, utilizing more than 17,000 volunteers. Despite their headway, the St. Bernard Project still receives at least 10 applicants a week -- families much like Jennifer's. You can help by contributing to The St. Bernard Project or directly to Jennifer Lanier via the widget below.
A typical rebuild through St. Bernard's Project costs about $15,000 worth of building supplies. By donating even a little, you will make a direct impact on the lives of Jennifer and her family, and help turn a house back into a home.
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