People seeking an antidote to disconnected bureaucracies and ineffective official channels that have plagued post-Katrina recovery can find it in one-time living rooms and dining rooms around the city. These unlikely settings are the offices of the Beacon of Hope Resources Centers, a grassroots network based in converted homes that helps residents return and rebuild.
That network has recently expanded with an office in a bright, newly restored house at 1509 Filmore Ave., in Gentilly, the neighborhood where the Lakeview-based Beacon of Hope is now focusing new resources.
“What we have in Lakeview is such a model of neighborhood recovery,” says Beacon of Hope director Connie Uddo. “We know it’s critical to have a place to go, a place where we can nip the scavenger hunt of trying to find answers. Where can I find a contractor? Should I demolish or not? Where do I begin? These are the questions people are facing and when they come to a Beacon our goal is to have everything they need right there in person.”
The original Beacon of Hope was formed six months after Katrina in the flood-damaged Lakeview home of program founders Denise and Doug Thornton. It quickly emerged as a hub of information, resources and hands-on assistance for neighbors as they rebuilt. It has evolved into a dozen Beacons serving specific neighborhoods, and now case managers help individuals with the rebuilding process while others marshal local and visiting volunteers to repair homes, clean up yards and plant trees.
With recovery progress mounting in Lakeview, the group decided to devote more of its services and attention to neighboring Gentilly. It’s no coincidence that this latest Beacon, like those formed earlier, is based in a house.
“I want people to feel that they’re coming into a home and to see that we really are here to take care of them,” says Uddo.
Beacon of Hope partnered early in its existence with St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Lakeview, and through those ties has worked closely with and received major support from the Episcopal Diocese. A grant from the Diocese of Olympia in Washington state helped fund the new Gentilly office.
“People across the country do care and are sending their help in real, concrete terms like what you see here,” says Nell Bolton, director of the Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana’s office of disaster recovery.
For more information about the group and its services, visit www.lakewoodbeacon.org.