Hands On Volunteers Launch Hope Six Project

Volunteers are busy gutting houses in the Hope Six public housing neighborhood in East Biloxi. They're not only helping restore affordable homes, they're experimenting with mold removal methods.

It's a unique partnership between the group Hands On and the Biloxi Housing Authority. Volunteers are busy scraping and pounding. They're gutting 106 units of public housing.

"Politicians, the governor, the mayor, they talk about affordable housing all the time in their speeches. But this is it right here. This is the affordable housing for East Biloxi," said Nick Heyming, pointing to the homes being worked on.

Brand new homes people were just moving into before Katrina, are suddenly off limits. From the outside it's not easy to tell this neighborhood was mostly underwater.

Guillermo Olivos is one of the Hands On supervisors.

"The worst of it being these homes right here on Bradford Street. These are the ones that had eight foot, nine foot water lines," he explained.

Removing damaged materials is the first step. Mold remediation comes next. And that's where Hope Six differs from your typical water logged neighborhood.

"The only way we could responsibly mediate these homes would be to have a testing process in place," said Heyming.

The project seems a perfect match. The Biloxi Housing Authority needed someone to gut these flooded homes before they can be rebuilt. Hands On needed somewhere to conduct its mold remediation experiments. The Hope Six location does both.

College student Susan Shey never gutted a house before. She'll return to New Jersey with new skills and a changed perception.

"What struck me most was just the amount of work that needs to be done. The amount of work that's being done by volunteer groups. And the perception up North that things are getting done, when they really aren't," Shey said.

The mold remediation work begins Monday. Rebuilding the homes will start by early summer.

The mold remediation at Hope Six will be monitored for two years. Professors from USM and LSU are helping with the study and experiment.