Help Needed for Rebuilding

New Orleans' ninth ward may be the poorest part of the city, but there are a lot of people who care a lot about it, and getting it cleaned up and rebuilt will be a job that will require a lot of that care.

Slowly but surely, former residents are returning to what were once their homes. Dr. Leonard Lucas ran into a few old friends during our tour of the ward.

One man was another pastor who hasn't been home since the storm hit, and is returning to see what's left of his church.

As we spoke, Lucas seemed to waffle between optimism and pessimism about whether or not the area would ever be the same.

"Overnight, this community is gone. It may never return," said Lucas. "This community should be a better community. It's what people have always wanted; maybe this is what we needed."

Whether or not the community will ever be the same, there is certainly a lot of work to do. It will basically mean starting from scratch, actually starting from less than scratch. This area will have to be cleared out before it can be rebuilt and it is still a mess.

Meridian Pastor Rick Spells has been coming to this area for the last 14 years. He's a close friend of Lucas and he knows how difficult the job will be.

"The suffering of these people has not abated. They're still suffering as much today as they were after the hurricane. They're still displaced, they're still longing for home. They are still needing stability," Lucas said.

And when they'll get it is still anyone's guess. One of the biggest problems here is one you can't see. You can only smell. Whether its raw sewage or dead bodies, either animal or human, the only way you can handle it in many places is to wear a mask.

The smell is especially bad near water that has been standing now for more than a month. Cleaning this up will be one of the most important and most difficult jobs that will have to be done, but Dr. Lucas says it has to be done, and he wants former residents of the ninth ward to come back and do it.

"We have jobs, we have a place for them to stay, they have hope for a future. I'm calling them back and they're coming back," Lucas said.

The job of cleaning up this community will likely take years and Lucas says it will take a major commitment from the people who live here.

Contractors in New Orleans have several thousand jobs to offer to those who want to take part in the cleanup and rebuilding effort.

The jobs are pretty high-paying, too, more high-paying than most people in the ninth ward have ever held.

That's another reason Dr. Lucas says he believes it's so important to get the people back.


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