Pitt tries to ‘make it right’ again

By Christine Graf
January 31, 2008

submitted photo/ Lisa Stoll

Brad Pitt vows to make it right in New Orleans after witnessing the damage still present in the Lower 9th Ward two years after hurricane Katrina. The Lower 9th Ward, once filled with much culture and liveliness, today seems to have been forgotten in the rebuilding process.

Six Cabrini College students traveled to New Orleans for Habitat for Humanity over Christmas break and saw just what Pitt witnessed that provoked the feeling to “Make it Right,” which is what Pitt’s new project is called.

“It looked like the hurricane hit yesterday, not two years ago,” Jillian Smith, English and communications major, said.

Grayce Turnbach, English and communications major agreed, “You could smell the mold and actually see where the water sat. There were still water lines on the houses.”

Pitt’s idea to change this is to build 150 homes worth $150,000 each that are green, sustainable and affordable so that the area and people will not have to go through the hardship it once did after Hurrican Katrina August 2005.

In order to make the homes affordable Pitt had been collecting donations online at makeitrightnola.org from people all over the United States. The way the site works is that a donor can actually enter the house online and pick what part of the house they would like to donate. The areas where the houses are being built have pink tents that represent different parts of each house, as donations come in the pieces of the houses are put together. Currently enough money for 69 houses has been raised to begin the building.

Pitt has had luck in collecting money, by getting support from other celebrities such as Will Ferrell and David Spade, but also support from regular United State citizens that have come to realize that if the government cannot do their part it is up to America to “Make it Right” for those who lost everything to Hurricane Katrina.

Even with valuable donations towards Pitt’s foundation, another problem arises, can the people who once occupied New Orleans Lower 9th Ward, which was the area of New Orleans with the most home ownership, afford to live in these $150,000 homes?

According to Julie House, Warren County Habitat for Humanity youth relations in New Orleans, the people who once resided in the Lower 9th Ward had a high poverty rate. Although many of them owned their houses, they were passed down from generation to generation, and very run down in need of repair, which the residents could not afford.

“I do not believe this (“Make it Right”) is an affordable project for the Lower 9th Ward. I think that it looks good on paper, but in reality it is not,” House said.

Pitt’s mission for “Make it Right” is not to give a hand out but a hand up to the people of New Orleans who have “suffered a great injustice,” but the program could have trouble since many of the residents are gone so there may not be 150 Lower 9th Ward families to participate. These 9th Ward families are expected to come up with so much of the money for the house and then the rest through mortgages if they qualify.

House goes on to explain that, although the houses are fit to withstand flooding and are energy efficient, there are far more affordable programs in New Orleans that would make more sense for the families of the 9th Ward.

“Habitat for Humanity on the other hand is doing it the right way and affordable, because if you have property that was affected by Katrina you could get a house built on your property to your specifications for around $15,000. Even if you have a mortgage it will increase by about $70 a month. Now that is affordable,” House said.

Pitt’s idea to “Make it Right” can work if everything goes as planned but there are other things that need to be taken into consideration if he wants to preserve the “rich culture” of the Lower 9th Ward. Pitt needs to make sure he can find people from the Lower 9th Ward to come back and reside there.

“Right now I do not see this as being a good thing for the residents of the Lower 9th ward, but it is good for the area as is any rebuilding,” House said.

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Christine Graf

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