How many people does it take to make a full house? According to Peggy Mitchell, "You're never full. There's always room for more."
With 40 people seeking refuge in her 3 bedroom, 2 bath house after Hurricane Katrina, Peggy speaks from experience. Peggy and James Mitchell, who transplanted to Baton Rouge from New Orleans in the late 1970's, and still have lots of family in New Orleans; family that needed shelter in August, 2005.
"I was standing in the kitchen just staring at that side tree; just staring at it when I heard the one in the back begin to fall," Peggy recalls. The 80 foot tree crashed through the house taking out one of the bedrooms and a bathroom. Though no one was hurt, the entire back half of the house was crushed leaving one bedroom and bath for 40 people to share.
"We just made do. People slept on the kitchen floor, under the table, wherever they could find a spot," Peggy remembers.
And so they existed for months until New Orleans re-opened and the majority of their evacuees were able to return to their homes. By the beginning of October and with the occupancy down to 5, the Mitchells were finally able to get the tree removed from their home. With the tree gone, they were able to tear down the destroyed rear bedroom and bath, secure the doorways with plywood and cover the many holes in the roof with blue tarps.
For most, rebuilding would begin at this point, but no so for the Mitchells. Finances did not allow for traditional funding so they pursued less traditional ones. A local attorney and life long friend helped navigate the government systems and agencies to get them what money he could. Finding an architect was difficult.
Not willing to give up, Peggy turned to Habitat for Humanity. They qualified for the program but Habitat's standard home design would not fit on their narrow lot.
They were given the option of receiving a Habitat home in a community over 10 miles away. But Peggy and James had lived in Valley Park for over 40 years and leaving was not an option.
Our design/build firm took on this challenge to show our commitment to the community, help a family in need and demonstrate that good design can be delivered at a reasonable cost.