Project Homecoming Commits to Long-term Rebuilding of New Orleans


Editor’s Note: This week I’m sharing stories about people and organizations who have helped New Orleans rebuild since Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005. Monday and Tuesday we looked at a California church that sends a group of volunteers every winter. Wednesday we saw a family from that church that spends their vacation on the annual trips. Today’s post is about the organization that the church group works through, Project Homecoming.

NEW ORLEANS – More than five years after Hurricane Katrina, a number of rebuilding organizations have shuttered operations and moved on, despite the fact that this city still has nearly 50,000 blighted homes and numerous near-empty neighborhoods.

For one organization, there’s still more work to do.

Project Homecoming has helped struggling homeowners rebuild more than 125 homes since its creation in 2007 as a ministry of the Presbytery of South Louisiana and Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA). As efforts to rebuild New Orleans continue and needs shift, Project Homecoming is going through a sort of rebirth, as it transitions to its own 501c3 nonprofit by the end of this year.

Volunteers from a Presbyterian church in Pennsylvania strip paint on a Project Homecoming work site in the Lower Ninth Ward.

“There’s a lot of faith-based groups that have left New Orleans; Presbyterians are some of the ones that remain because of PDA’s planning for a long-term commitment,” said Executive Director Jean Marie Peacock. “We’re thankful for the financial support they provided and the partnership that initiated Project Homecoming’s commitment to the long-term recovery in New Orleans.”

The PDA is now transitioning out of the Gulf, after more than five years of helping to rebuild communities in states all along the coast. It closed the last of its volunteer villages recently, but it remains involved in rebuilding efforts through a $500,000 grant it awarded to Project Homecoming for 2011.

Knowing that PDA would wind down efforts one day, Project Homecoming took steps toward continuing in New Orleans. One of the steps: seeking and winning a $500,000 grant from the city and acquiring a contractor’s license to tackle major blight through building and selling new homes to low-income families.

“It’s really an extension of what we have been doing with hurricane recovery,” Peacock said. “We’ll still continue to work with individuals, but we’re now branching into recovery work of neighborhoods.”

At the time Project Homecoming came together as a partnership of South Louisiana churches, the focus was on helping low-income, elderly and disabled homeowners lacking enough funds to rebuild after hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Many of its clients were previously taken advantage of by unscrupulous contractors, leaving them unable to finance further reconstruction.

Then and now, Project Homecoming case managers help clients navigate the rebuilding process, while construction and onsite managers marshal teams of volunteers to do construction on the homes at about a third of the cost of using contractors. Volunteers do everything minus plumbing, electrical, and heating, ventilating and air conditioning systems; the organization hires trusted licensed professionals for that work.

Most of the nearly 10,000 volunteers who have worked through Project Homecoming over the years have come from Presbyterian churches all over the country. Director of Public Relations and Marketing Vann Joines said 2010 was the organization’s biggest volunteer year ever; they experienced a 15 percent increase in volunteers over 2009.

Tomorrow: How Project Homecoming will help revitalize neighborhoods through building new homes for low-income families.


  1. […] work group to the city every winter. Wednesday was about a family that takes the trips every year. Yesterday I started a story about Project Homecoming. Today is part two of the […]