New Orleans: ACORN Katrina Recovery and Rebuilding Campaign


ACORN members created the ACORN Katrina Survivors Association. With more than 5,500 member families and chapters in 10 cities across the country, the ACORN Katrina Survivors Association serves as the national voice of displaced people, fighting for fair treatment in their host cities, and the right to return and rebuild their communities.

One year ago, the people of New Orleans were hit by a devastating storm, forced to flee by failing levees, and abandoned, before the shocked eyes of the world, by a government unable or unwilling to provide effective relief.

One year later, the determination of the people of New Orleans to return and rebuild their homes, lives and communities and the overwhelming support of the American people for a humane and just recovery has brought hard-won hope and progress to the city.

ACORN quickly began fostering communication among displaced residents, fighting for disaster assistance, preserving homes, developing a rebuilding plan and providing a national voice for Katrina survivors. The ACORN Katrina Recovery and Rebuilding Campaign have organized its many activities around one constant theme: We will return and rebuild our homes, our lives and our communities.


On August 2005 the Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and the Gulf region, leaving behind unprecedented damage and rendering thousands of people homeless. The damage or destruction is calculated over 130,000 homes or 72 percent of all occupied housing units in New Orleans, the loss of hundreds of lives, and catastrophic human suffering. The U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency was unable to coordinate a hurricane response plan, and as a result helped direct ten of thousands of people to unsuitable shelters – without water, without food, in the midst of sweltering heat and spreading disease. It’s important to emphasize the damage from Katrina disproportionately affected low-income residents and African Americans. The government has failed to provide adequate housing for most of 250,000 New Orleanians who are displaced the federal government is ending rental assistance programs for many of the displaced, there are federal plans to demolish most of New Orleans” public housing, and there is a general lack of affordable housing in New Orleans, where rents have increased by 25 to 100 percent.

The damage consequences caused by Katrina closed 85 percent of New Orleans public schools[1]. Six months after the storm, New Orleans public schools served only 9,298 students, down from 64,270 before the storm[2]. For the start of the 2006-2007 school year, only one-third of New Orleans public schools have reopened. Also, only 3 of 22 hospitals and the half of bus system are working. Today there are thousands of refugees and over 70,000 families are still living in trailers.

More than 1600 people died this day, most of them were black. The government helps some of these people (20,000) by hosting them into an overcrowded Superdome Stadium without water, light, medicines or food.

Actually the Superdome was rebuilt with an investment of 185 million dollars. For most of the affected people it is impossible to buy a ticket there. The government gave 100 million dollars for rebuild the city, but due to bureaucratic problems only 44 millions have been pay out. Thousands of people left the city searching a new life and many devastated residents don’t even qualify for the rebuilding funds. Each state makes its own rules, and so far Mississippi’s program that provides grants up to $150,000 leaves many people out — especially poor people.

This article details some of the initiatives taken by ACORN during 2005 and 2006. There are two focuses of ACORN actions: housing and jobs. If you have a job, then you will find a house and live somewhere or just about anywhere. If you dont have housing, then there is no way to find a job or hold onto it. Looking down from these two twin peaks, one sees that for families there must be schools and for the elderly, there must be good health care. Both prevent either group from exercising the “right of return. There are now five school systems in the city with questionable value. There are relatively few health care choices in the city, so the result is much the same.

In August 2005, there were more than 9.000 ACORN member families in New Orleans, making ACORN the largest grassroots membership organization in the city. One year after Katrina, 7.500 ACORN families still have not returned to New Orleans. Nothing has been done by the government, especially at the city and state levels. The city is being rebuilt block-by-block, house-by-house, by citizens banding together with their organizations to prove that they want to live in New Orleans and are coming back.

[1] Liu, Amy, Matt Fellowes and Mia Mabanta. Special Edition of the Katrina Index: A One-Year Review of Key Indicators of Recovery in Post-Storm New Orleans, The Brookings Institution, August 2006.

[2] Russell, Gordon. Six Months Later; Recovery Gaining Focus, The Times-Picayune, February 26, 2006.