Bobbie Banks in front of her home here in the Lower 9th Ward
The Whole 9
Ms. Bobbie Banks' house, located in the Lower 9th Ward, is bustling with family - nieces, nephews and grandkids, which, when she was deciding whether to come back after the Storm, was key. The Lower 9th Ward is HOME, and it is where the heart is.
We first met Ms. Bobbie Banks in 2014. She had made it home after the levee breaches through her own determination and hard work, but there was a problem. During the aftermath of the flood, with building materials in short supply, many contractors purchased drywall that was manufactured with toxic chemicals. As a result, copper pipes corroded and turned black, appliances broke down, and new homeowners became sick. Bobbie had to replace her pipes and refrigerator more than once and began having respiratory problems. her sick.
When we heard from the homeowners who were experiencing this nightmare, we realized we had to do something. The Road Home program, run by a state agency distributing federal funds, had paid for many of these building materials, but was refusing to pay to replace them. We needed to do what we do best—WE UNCOVERED THE SYSTEMIC PROBLEM AT THE GROUND LEVEL AND BROUGHT SOLUTIONS TO POLICY MAKERS. We led a campaign to change the policy—and succeeded. Bobbie’s contaminated drywall, her pipes, and her appliances were all replaced at no cost to her, and Road Home even paid for an apartment to live in while the work was done. The program, which was one of Road Home’s most successful, also repaired the homes of hundreds of other families across the state.
We loved working with Bobbie, and respected her so much that we asked her to be on our Board. She wasn’t able to do it, but she could help us in another way. When a volunteer trip from All Souls Unitarian Church in DC longed for a true L9 meal, she hosted a fish fry for them. Many were heard to say it was the best meal they had during a trip long on good New Orleans food.
Recently we discovered that Bobbie could use our help again. As part of our Homeownership Preservation Project, in which we reviewed the tax status of every Lower 9th Ward resident we’ve worked with—276 of them—we discovered that she did not have a real property tax freeze she’s entitled to as a result of a disability. True to form, Bobbie didn’t, in fact, need much help. As soon as we let her know, she gathered all the necessary documentation and submitted it to the Orleans Parish Assessor. Her taxes will never go up again.
Ms Bobbie's story truly exemplifies the heart of the Lower 9th Ward Homeownership Association. While the core mission of the L9WHA has always been preserving and promoting homeownership, we also recognize that in order for us to fill the neighborhood with homeowners again, the L9 must be a vibrant place where people want to set down their roots. So as we close out 2020 and look toward the new year, the resident-driven revitalization arm of our work will take on a new name: the Whole 9.
The Whole 9 Initiative seeks to meet all the needs of homeowners, just like Ms Bobbie, who needs someone to follow up when everyone else has pulled back. It seeks to meet people where they are, helping them at each step along the way. Through building meaningful relationship with homeowners, the L9WHA will enable homeowners to remain in their homes, and pass them on for generations to come.
The Whole 9 Initiative is all about partnership - partnering homeownership with resources. And it is because of you and your partnership that this initiative is possible. If you'd like to join this incredible partnership, DONATE today, by visiting our website at www.L9WHA.org/donate