Gutting Houses in New Orleans

HNP Communications Features

Emmet Murphy returned May 13 from a week as a volunteer in New Orleans. He participated in a group of 12 people organized by Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Paterson, N.J.

The program is designed to help people in the areas hardest hit by last year’s hurricane by cleaning and rebuilding damaged houses. Emmet’s group was charged with cleaning and gutting three houses.

The first house was located on St. Anthony Street. Emmet said the owner had the patience of Job. His wife had left him. His daughter had been killed in an automobile accident. The man almost drowned trying to escape across a flooded street during the hurricane. He lost his house and then his job. He had hope, though, and was planning to stay in New Orleans. “He was very glad to see us,” said Emmet. The volunteers bought the man a gift certificate at Home Depot, for him to use with the next set of volunteers, who will attempt to rebuild the now-gutted house.

The largest problems encountered by the volunteers, according to Emmet, was mold and mildew. “We had to wear masks, gloves and hats to protect ourselves,” he said.

The group worked in 91-degree heat with high humidity. “By 10 a.m., we were sopping wet,” Emmet remembered.

The group from Paterson was joined by a group of Franciscan sisters from Minnesota.

The volunteers stayed at Hope Havens, a home for incorrigible children. “We lived on one side,” Emmet said. “And the kids lived on the other side.”

Each evening, the exhausted volunteers celebrated Mass when they returned to Home Haven.