Katrina's 6th anniversary puts roofs over victims

BAY ST. LOUIS, MS (WLOX) - Prayers for ten senior citizens in Hancock County were answered Monday.

Habitat Bay-Waveland marked the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina with a dedication celebration, that finally gave some folks who lost everything their own place to call home.

James Tillman has waited six years for this moment. At 70, Tillman is one of ten senior citizens who is about to move into a duplex unit at Seal Pointe, off of Old Spanish Trial.

"It's a new beginning," Tillman said. "It's just a new beginning. And when you can get a new beginning at my age, I mean, man, what else can I say? Hooray!"

Each unit was built "green" with extra features to improve energy efficiency, as well as other details to make life easier for seniors, or people with disabilities.

A partnership between Habitat, The Mississippi Development Authority and MEMA made it possible. MEMA provided a $1.7 million grant to the development.

"We provide the money for the cost of materials and they provide the labor, and it just works out well," said MEMA Director Mike Womack.

"Our community will never be whole until everyone is home, until everyone is back," said former CNN correspondent and Bay St. Louis native Kathleen Koch.

Koch said developments like Seal Pointe are vital to the recovery process.

"Those of us here know that the recovery is a marathon, it's not a sprint," Koch said. "I said it would be ten years before the Gulf Coast was really back to what we consider normal, and I'm afraid I'm going to be on target. I think the rest of the nation still doesn't know Mississippi's full story. That's why I wrote the book. That's why I'm still out promoting it."

Koch's book is entitled, "Rising from Katrina."

If James Tillman could add a chapter, it would likely say rising from kKatrina can sometimes take a while.

"It's a relief, I'll put it that way," said Tillman.

So far, Habitat Bay-Waveland has built about 165 homes for Katrina victims since its inception in 2006. Director Windy McDonald said right now, they're building about 40 new homes a year.

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