Groundbreaking Ceremony for the Community Center at Abundance Square

MONDAY, JUNE 30, 2008

Good morning. Thank you all for coming. I especially want to thank Mayor (Ray) Nagin for being here. Councilwoman (Cynthia) Willard-Lewis, thank you for your leadership to help families move from Section 8 to homeownership.

During my time at the Small Business Administration (SBA) I came to New Orleans a dozen times to improve our support to homeowners as well as small business through SBA. I have spent time with so many of you, listening to your stories, seeing your resilience, and partnering to move forward.

My first trip as head of the SBA was to New Orleans, and likewise, my first trip as Secretary of HUD is to New Orleans. I am here to get a first-hand look at where we are, at the city's progress, and to consult with the Mayor, Governor (Bobby) Jindal, and others about our plans during the next few months.

I wanted to tour the public housing communities and see for myself the progress made since Hurricane Katrina.

So I am here to see, to listen, and to learn. I don't want to assume anything...I want to know first-hand the commitment we're making to the families of New Orleans who are rebuilding.

They deserve something better than what they had.

I understand a few landlords and families have concerns, so naturally I'm concerned too. But, I am also pleased to know the vast majority -- 7,000 families -- are receiving the services they need from HUD's Disaster Housing Assistance Program Center.

And during my time as Secretary I want to stay informed and involved as much as possible. This country has made a commitment to the people of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. I want to make sure that commitment is fully honored with our best possible efforts.

Desire is a model for the rebirth of housing in New Orleans Ninth Ward, which endured the worst of Hurricane Katrina nearly three years ago. Today, residents have new homes and a future in a socially and economically integrated environment where their children can play safely and families can thrive.

The work here isn't easy. Desire is a model for the progress that is being made and will continue to be made. Unprecedented devastation requires unprecedented partnership, both within and across the various levels of government, and with the private sector. There are a lot of needs to address and a lot of different ideas about how to do it. I want to make sure that we craft the most productive partnerships for the most effective responses.

Of course, HUD is a big part of the federal response, a partner with the city, the State, and non-profit efforts. We're rebuilding communities, creating jobs, and generating economic opportunities for residents. I want to make our federal efforts effective and pro-active. I don't want to just replace or replicate, if that will only recreate certain foreseeable problems. We must continue to be thoughtful about rebuilding for the future.

New Orleans must be safer, more able to withstand disaster, an even stronger community, and a more secure place to live. We owe that to the people here.

Over the last three years, again and again people have joined together in remarkable ways. Some people and organizations have stepped forward, looking to do anything and everything possible to help.

Today we see yet another example of generosity, far-sighted vision, and community commitment. The Memorandum of Understanding announced today will allow the Urban League and HANO to turn this parcel of land into a Community Center. The Center will offer daycare, medical and employment services, and programs for young people. The League has committed to fund this state-of-the-art center with $1.6 million.

I want to thank Nolan Rollins, President of the Urban League of Greater New Orleans, for stepping forward with this valuable center. This is a tremendous addition to the local community. Here children can play together, learn, grow, stay healthy, and families can build community.

I have five children myself and I know how important it is for them to feel safe and secure, to have a place to play and laugh and grow up and develop friendships.

I thank Nolan and the Urban League for making all that possible here, today, with a profound gift to the Desire community and the City of New Orleans.

Thank you.


Content Archived: January 25, 2012