Recovering From Katrina, One Home At A Time


Judy (last name withheld to protect her privacy) and her 80-year-old mother are still living in the white Federal Emergency Management Agency provided trailer.

It is one of approximately 46,000 trailers still occupied by Louisiana residents, 27 months after Hurricane Katrina wreaked havoc on many Gulf Coast cities.


Judy's home has been rewired, but it will be months before it is fit to live in.

Through an aid organization known as Camp Restore, Payson residents and home-builders Rick and Karyn Nelsen were assigned to rewire Judy's home.

"When you drive through the neighborhoods and see out of 500 homes in a subdivision only 10 are habitable, it is overwhelming," Karyn Nelsen said.

Making the electrical system safe is one step on the long road to Judy and her mother being able to live in their home.

Nelsen estimated Judy's insurance settlement is $5,000 short of the needed materials.

That money does not include labor, so Judy, like most of the people on restoration waiting lists, must wait for volunteers with the right skill, at the right time -- plumbing and pipes have to be installed before commodes, drywall has to go up before painting can begin.

Karyn estimated that two to three months of work on Judy's home remained if she had contractors working 40-hour weeks.

In April, FEMA extended the deadline for residents to vacate the temporary housing until March of 2009.

The question of whether that will be long enough remains to be answered.

Camp Restore has a list of 800 houses that require the skilled labor of a contractor.

There are many aid organizations with similar lists.

"I keep hearing comments from different people that it has been two years and these people should pick up their boot straps and help themselves. Get out of there. It is their fault for living in a place below sea level. This is much deeper than that. This city has a history that goes back to the 1700s," Karyn said.

"The people of New Orleans are still in mourning. The tourists go about their partying and leave their mess of vomit and beads strewn on the ground and the locals are left to clean up the mess holding their heads high to keep the economy going," she added.

Camp Restore provides its volunteers with meals and dorm housing for $25 per person per day.

Volunteers are organized into skill groups and head out to rebuild one step of construction at a time.

The Nelsens learned of Camp Restore when pastor Larry Bell substituted for Pastor Tom Arnold at Shepherd of the Pines Lutheran Church in May.

The Nelsens and other members of the church plan to return to Camp Restore in February.

"There is an incredible amount of work that needs to be done, if I can do a little bit, a couple of times, that is worthwhile," Rick Nelsen said.

Camp Restore offers hope, faith and community.

"As fellow Americans, we have a duty to help our brothers and sisters, to show them love and compassion. Not a handout, a hand up. And if that means a handout to get a hand up, then so be it. We can't expect the government to do it all," Karyn said.

The next organized trip planned to Camp Restore is Feb. 3-9, 2008. Those interested in going may contact Pastor Larry Bell with Epic Ministries at or call Karyn Nelsen for more details at (928) 468-6484.

"If those dates are not suitable, consider contacting Camp Restore directly by calling Pastor Ed Brashier at (888) 248-2636," Karyn said.

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