Eight years after Hurricane Katrina, John and Vanessa Ross are finally able to return to their Gentilly home. It’s the 500th homecoming party provided through the St. Bernard Project since the storm.
John and Vanessa Ross were in Texas when Katrina hit.
Six weeks later they saw first-hand the damage left by five feet of standing water.
“I cried the whole time as we were taking stuff out because everything was just totally tore down," she said. "I mean, the floors, the carpets, all that was messed up.”
John said there was more heartbreak to come.
“We had financial difficulties. We were beat out of some money," he said. "I had a contractor that took $25,000 from us and didn’t do anything.”
He said they tried to do bits of work when they could, but money was tight.
The couple lived with their daughter Ebony and her two children in a FEMA trailer, but the women became ill and they all moved back to Texas.
Then their daughter passed away.
Vanessa lost her sight in one eye.
Medical bills ate their savings.
Last year they returned to New Orleans to be close to family. Vanessa was referred to the St. Bernard Project through her church.
The non-profit has expanded to New Orleans and other areas. Project co-founder Zack Rosenburg says the Ross’ story is sadly familiar.
“This is still bitter. You know we all know what it’s like to have those lingering thoughts, things that we’re worried about," Rosenburg said. "They’ve had that thought for eight years, try as they might. Contractors. Insurance. The Road Home. They haven’t been able to do it on their own and we’ve got to finish the job.”
Rosenburg says 130 families remain on the waiting list.