What you spend years building...
... someone could destroy overnight.
Today we were privileged to walk onto the sacred ground of Theresa and Saul Mauss- that sacred ground being the floors of their home. Theresa shed tears as we lead her into the back bedroom of her home and asked her to look through the debris to see if there was anything that she did not want us to throw out. We watched as the kind, welcoming woman who had so kindly referred to us as "angels sent from the Lord" looked through the belongings that she had once proudly filled her home with, and determined that most had been broken, destroyed, or were now too covered with mold to be kept. As we piled high the unsalvageable items of her home, she wiped tears from her eyes watching years and memories flee from her possession.
A large fish tank sat in the former living room of the home. Its water was stagnant and moldy, and I was sure I would not find life within it. However, as I lifted a plastic plant out of the stones at the bottom of the tank, a large perch fish sprang to life and frantically swam around the tank. Just as the fish sprang to life out of the murkiness and darkness of the water and home, so too had Theresa and Saul found life and the determination to move on out of the murkiness and darkness of their home and the neighborhood that they call home.
Theresa and Saul are receiving aid from Hope House, an organization committed to "creating a society in which truth and justice abide" that "fosters dignity and worth in those with whom we live and work." Hope House's director Don Everard spoke at length with us this afternoon, detailing the unfortunate situation that is living in poverty in New Orleans. The average annual family income of individuals living in Hope House's subsidized housing is $8000/year. However, since Hurricane Katrina, nearly all conventional subsidized housing has been closed. Before the Hurricane, roughly 32,000 individuals were living in this housing. They were forced to relocate and many were unable to. Where do the poor turn when their homes have been washed away?
We asked Don what we, as residents of the northeastern United States can do to help these impoverished people once we have left New Orleans and returned to Saint Joseph's University. Luckily, Don had a few suggestions: 1.) Align yourselves with low income individuals in your own cities. Help them to live a stable life by helping to give them a stable place to live that they might call home. 2.) Take action when national legislation is going through. Fight for the rights of the poor and downtrodden.
I encourage you, too, to take on the challenges that Don has presented.