Katrina Evacuees in New Homes in Bayou LaBatre, Alabama

Residents share their stories and express gratitude for their new fully-furnished homes.

One hundred newly constructed homes become a dream for many of Bayou LaBatre's residents, displaced in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. "Safe Harbor Estates" is this aptly named subdivision which sits just across the road from Bayou LaBatre Mayor Stan Wright's home. It is evident that people of this community and its leaders came together to work with HUD, FEMA, and other agencies to create a model place for evacuees to return. "There is no NIMBY (not in my back yard) syndrome here" says Janie Galbraith, the consultant who worked with city officials to apply for the $15,000,000 FEMA Alternate Housing Pilot Program (AHPP) grant that made this construction possible. And, HUD's Community Development Block Grant program funded the infrastructure to support the development.

Safe Harbor Estates is complete and the homes will be rented or occupied under rent-to-own agreements. The City of Bayou LaBatre formed a new Public Housing Agency (PHA), the Bayou LaBatre Housing Authority, to own and manage the properties. "It isn't often we see 100 units of newly well-constructed and fully-furnished housing deeded to a PHA," said Ed Sprayberry, the Director of Public Housing in the Birmingham HUD Office. "I'm pleased to have been a part of assisting Bayou LaBatre in their efforts to create this Authority."

Mr. Sprayberry and Ms. Cindy Yarbrough, HUD's Field Office Director joined representatives of FEMA, HUD Headquarters, representatives of local elected officials and nonprofits from Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas at the FEMA Gulf-Coast AHPP conference in Mobile, Alabama in February, 2009. They spoke on how the creation of the Housing Authority serves as a catalyst for long-term assistance for Safe Harbor Estates and discussed HUD's role in disasters and recovery efforts.

The highlight of the conference was a meeting with residents who have already moved into their new homes. All of them were so proud to have a place to call home and expressed their heart-felt gratitude to everyone who played a part in helping them return to permanent long-term housing.

Content Archived: July 11, 2011