The 58-year-old considers New Orleans home.
For 17 years, Ms. Anderson has worked to help make renters in the city become homeowners. For its first year post-Katrina, she and her staff worked to help families get back to their homes.
From 2006 to 2007, her group was blessed with “incredible financial support from around the world”—from groups that typically did not give to New Orleans charities. The government of Qatar, for example, donated $3-million in grants for home subsidies to those who survived Katrina. As a result of the giving bonanza, Neighborhood Housing Services was able to open two neighborhood centers.
Today, though, she says, “We’re struggling. We’re having a hard time getting the support that we need.”
She cites three reasons: Community-organizing work isn’t typically financed by the government. With the economic crisis, foundations have been restrained in their giving because their assets have shrunk. And the city has a harder time getting federal stimulus dollars since it isn’t worse off than other cities; New Orleans has lower jobless and foreclosure rates than many places.
What these past five years have shown her is the “tremendous resiliency of the people and their ability to overcome seemingly insurmountable challenges and to do so with a degree of grace and good humor,” she says. “I’ve just been amazed observing how people really do respond and not only survive but come out as better people. We all have become better people in some respects, more humble and appreciative.”
What’s also impressed her is the number of volunteers who come year after year, which, surprisingly has not ebbed. “This is an aspect of American life,” she says, “This tremendous spirit of giving that no longer makes the news, but it is overwhelming and humbling every time I witness it.”
What she wants people around the country to know is that some neighborhoods and families are still struggling. “There are still families trying to come back home,” Ms. Anderson says.