Program helps those still struggling with Katrina damage

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Their claims were denied before, but now thousands of homeowners turned down for government help to make post-Katrina repairs have been given another chance.

The Neighborhood Home Program, which is overseen by the Mississippi Development Authority, has started work to fix damage to 3,600 South Mississippi homes.

The sound of hammers on the roof is music to Elizabeth Cleveland's ears. In the six years since Hurricane Katrina, she's had to worry every time it rains.

"It rained in one of the bathrooms," said Cleveland. "It was bringing the ceiling down right over the light fixture. So I had to continuously put a tarp on the house to keep it from raining in and the mold, the mold was continuing to set in."

Cleveland and her niece decided to apply to the HUD funded Neighborhood Home Program. The program is designed to help families who haven't been able to Katrina damage who live in Hancock, Harrison, Jackson, Stone, George, Pearl River, Forrest, Lamar and Jones counties. Along with Cleveland's roof, crews will also paint and repair drywall and siding.

"At first I didn't want to apply because I felt like we had people out here that had more damage than I had, and I felt like I could wait," Cleveland said. "Of course, times are hard, and it's hard to get things done when you don't have the income and the means."

Several contractors and sub-contractors bid on the projects. The crews said it feels good to be helping their people in the community get back on its feet.

"People need to have their homes repaired, so that they're water tight and secure," said Mark Ellis, a subcontractor. "They've endured something from a storm, and it's important to get them back to a place where they're comfortable in their home. It's always about the bottom line of making money, but it's also to help people. And that's what our intent is: to better people's homes for them."

"I'm just so happy right now, just melts my heart," Cleveland said. "It's just a blessing that I've waited years for and my breakthrough is here today."

Officials said the Neighborhood Home Program pays for the materials as well the labor.

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