Fighting Poverty with Passion
I’m in the first few weeks of my year-long VISTA term with the Broadmoor Development Corporation, an affordable housing nonprofit that works in the Broadmoor neighborhood of New Orleans. After working alongside BDC staff for the past several weeks and learning about all they have been able to accomplish, I’m honored to be a part of an organization that has worked so tirelessly to help people rebuild their lives in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Although the 8th anniversary of the storm is two weeks away, the repercussions of the devastation Broadmoor suffered are still being felt today.
100% of homes in the neighborhood suffered between 6-10 feet of flooding during Katrina; Broadmoor is sometimes referred to as the “bottom of the bowl” due its low elevation. The scale of the devastation in Broadmoor post-hurricane prompted city planners to propose turning the entire neighborhood into a green space represented on planning documents as a large green dot covering the whole of the area. With the existence of their entire community in peril, residents of Broadmoor organized and encouraged as many residents to return to their homes as possible. They rallied along major thoroughfares and held signs that read “Broadmoor Lives!” to send a message to the city, and the rest of the world, that Broadmoor wasn’t going anywhere.
The imminent threat of the “green dot” provided the impetus for the community to begin a dialogue on how they wanted to come back. Broadmoor was the only neighborhood in New Orleans to develop its own recovery plan. This comprehensive 300 page document outlines and ranks neighborhood priorities, from establishing an education corridor to developing affordable housing for low-income residents. It was from this recovery plan that the Broadmoor Development Corporation was born. Founded in 2006 to address housing needs in the neighborhood, the BDC has restored and refurbished flood damaged homes and has also constructed new, energy efficient homes on vacant lots where former dwellings were razed. Funding from state and national agencies has allowed the BDC to sell many of these homes to low-income families. In the coming months, we are also set to open several affordable rental units.
One of my primary roles as a VISTA at the BDC is working on fund development—grant writing, fundraising, etc. In the years immediately following Hurricane Katrina, there was a fair amount of state and federal money available for housing and community development in disaster affected areas. 8 years after Hurricane Katrina, however, many major funding agencies are prioritizing different service areas and it is up to us to diversify our funding base and target our programming towards the evolving needs of the neighborhood. Broadmoor has largely moved past the recovery phase and must now focus on building resiliency. It is for this reason that the BDC is looking to take a more active role in flood mitigation and blight remediation efforts in the coming year.
This transitional period presents many opportunities, as well as challenges, for continued growth and development for the organization. It’s an exciting time to be working for the BDC and I look forward to what the next year brings.