"Project Homecoming": Helping Katrina families get home at last

Volunteers from Project Homecoming repair a house damaged by Hurricane Katrina.
Volunteers from Project Homecoming repair a house damaged by Hurricane Katrina.
CBS News

(CBS News) NEW ORLEANS - Late Monday, the Senate gave final Congressional approval to more than $50 billion in aid to victims of superstorm Sandy. Meanwhile, the Super Bowl in New Orleans next weekend is a major milestone in the city's recovery from Hurricane Katrina, but the work is far from over.

Monica Ferrier
Monica Ferrier CBS News

Seven out of ten homes in New Orleans were damaged or destroyed by Katrina, and some residents still don't have them back.

Wayne and Monica Ferrier still dream of returning to their gutted home in New Orleans East seven years after Katrina ruined it.

Wayne said he and his wife feel like evacuees in their own cities. "Seven-and-a-half years is a long time," he said.

"It's a long time, and I would never have imaged to be out of my home that long," Monica added.

The Ferriers say they would have been back by now, but a fraudulent contractor pocketed their $60,000 FEMA and insurance settlement in 2007, and disappeared.
Wayne Ferrier
Wayne Ferrier CBS News

Wayne, an accountant, and Monica, an event coordinator, have rented an apartment ever since.

"It's like someone -- being robbed with a pen and paper," Wayne said.

New Orleans is a patchwork of recovery. In places like the lower ninth ward, New Orleans East and Gentilly, homes still sit, crumbling.

Project Homecoming, a New Orleans-based organization, depends on donations to help Katrina victims rebuild. One damaged house, vacant since the hurricane, belongs to an elderly grandmother also scammed by a contractor.

Project Homecoming has rebuilt 150 homes in the last five years.

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Jean Marie Peacock, the group's executive director, said the work gets harder as the years go by.

"The feeling is things are fine in New Orleans and there can't be the need any more," Peacock said.

Peacock said Project Homecoming group gets three or four new calls every week. Three quarters of them are from people scammed by contractors.

Project Homecoming's volunteers will begin $75,000-worth of re-construction on the Ferrier's home in March.

"It took us a while to find our home, that we fell in love with, so this is where I want to be, back here in New Orleans East," Monica Ferrier said.

If construction finishes on time, the Ferriers could complete their long road home in August, eight years after Katrina drove them away.

  • Mark Strassmann
    Mark Strassmann

    Mark Strassmann has been a CBS News correspondent since January 2001 and is based in the Atlanta bureau.