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‘Youth Rebuilding New Orleans’ is tackling blight one house at a time

Written by  IntheNOLA.com
Seems like blighted properties have become part of the scenery of New Orleans. With tons of houses left vacant and in disrepair after Hurricane Katrina, many just stand empty, waiting for the right person to come along and make the area useful again.
 
Making some of these properties livable again is no easy feat, taking up plenty time and plenty more money. And one local organization has taken up the challenge, tackling one New Orleans home at a time.
Youth Rebuilding New Orleans | IntheNOLA.com
When you hear the name Youth Rebuilding New Orleans (YRNO), the connection between youth and rebuilding certainly stand out. But this is exactly what’s happening…at Youth Rebuilding New Orleans, the youth are active participants in the forward progression of New Orleans.
 
William Stoudt, Executive Director of YRNO, was once one of those New Orleans youth and actually helped start the organization when he was still in high school. “Youth Rebuilding New Orleans started as a way of getting our young people involved in the rebirth and recovery of New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina,” William explained. “Many of the organizations that were around had liability fears in letting minors participate in gutting houses because it’s very dangerous work. So, they were hesitant to let people under eighteen participate. Myself and some friends and adults decided to start our own grassroots organization and do it ourselves. At first, it was very grassroots, ‘This weekend we’re going to gut this one.’ Then overtime, the question became how could we make more of an impact? That’s when other projects started coming to mind, and we eventually established a non-profit.”
Youth Rebuilding New Orleans | IntheNOLA.com
Youth Rebuilding New Orleans purchases blighted and foreclosed properties and fixes them up with the help of volunteers. Once the home is complete, teachers are able to purchase the property in an effort to “stabilize neighborhoods and positively impact the education system.” Volunteers receive job training, leadership development, and service learning opportunities. Since 2010, Youth Rebuilding New Orleans volunteers have worked on dozens of houses all over the city to help revitalize New Orleans.
 
YRNO also supports those youth who want to volunteer, but may not be in the best position to do so with its Future Leaders Initiative. “We realized that the kids we wanted to help the most have the most difficulty coming,” William said. “Maybe they have part time jobs on the weekends helping to support their families or other various issues. They are the ones that can potentially benefit from service learning and engaging them in the community. So, we’ve hired people from AmeriCorp to go in to schools to provide mentoring, tutoring, and service learning opportunities to the students. They’ll go and pick a kid up from a service site, whether it’s ours or not, to show the importance of civic engagement.”
Youth Rebuilding New Orleans | IntheNOLA.com
Wanna volunteer with YRNO? No worries, YRNO needs our help. “We always have service opportunities Monday through Friday, and most weekends. We have project sites where we’re rebuilding houses, so that can be anything from a skilled carpenter that wants to give some of his time to someone who has never built or swung a hammer in their life to other building and educational opportunities.”

William concluded, “It’s important that people remember that New Orleans still has plenty of challenges. There are still some 35,000 blighted homes and we see blight as a problem that impacts crime, education, and community stabilization. And we want to continue the rebuilding effort in New Orleans.”
 
For more information about Youth Rebuilding New Orleans, please visit the website, Facebook, and Twitter.

Last modified on Wednesday, 05 December 2012
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