Gulfport Kicks Off Free Debris Removal And Demolition Program

"My front door was right there," Sidney Maddux said as he pointed to a pile of rubble.

It was his second visit to his Gulfport neighborhood since Katrina hit.

"Twenty-six years in one place, and that's all I got left. One, two, three, four trees and a pile of junk," said Sidney Maddux with a smile.

The junk used to be 4301 Central Street, where Sidney and Joyce Maddux raised four children and collected so many memories.

"It's so sad. I'll be glad when it's all cleared off and we can see where our house used to be," said Joyce Maddux.

But the couple says cleaning up the enormous mess and paying for it would be nearly impossible.

"I'm 80 years old. I couldn't get out there and do that. Just to rent a Bobcat, it's $250 a day. After I rent it, where do I take it," Sidney asked.

So on Tuesday, the couple signed up for the "Residential Private Property Debris Removal Program" at the Gulfport High Gym. They, and other homeowners south of the tracks, agreed to let city contractors remove the debris and demolish damaged homes that are considered a health and safety hazard.

"We're asking people to give us the right of entry and permission. For those that do not give us the right of entry and permission, we'll investigate that and follow up at a later date to forcibly clean up that property," said Urban Development Director George Carbo.

The city expects to hire a contractor by the end of next week. After that, crews will begin clearing properties, starting at DeBuys road and working their way west. Eventually, those crews will reach the Maddux' property.

"We're ready. Just to clear off the lot completely, and all the material things. Gradually, we'll replace them," said Joyce.

Her husband laughed and said, "Get it cleaned up and let some casino come in, eyeball it, and say hey I want that for my parking lot!"

On Wednesday, people who live north of the railroad tracks to I-10 can sign-up for the program at the Gulfport High School Gym. On Thursday, homeowners north of I-10 can apply at the Orange Grove Community Center. The hours are from 8 AM to 7 PM.

Gulfport officials say there's no charge to homeowners because FEMA will reimburse the city for the clean-up.