NOTE: Not really motorcyle related but I thought I'd share our experience from our recent trip to Biloxi MS with the Delinquents.
Peg & I just returned from a trip to Biloxi, MS as part of group of volunteers helping rebuild housing there, it was Peg second trip (she's a "boomerang") and my first. My first reaction is that the amount of storm damage that remains is shocking, major hotels and casinos are rebuilding (most won't reopen until this September) but there are acres of beach front property that has been swept clean, with mangled signs being the only indication that a business was there. I have visited poor devastated areas overseas but it was sad feeling to look around a East Biloxi and get a déjà vu feeling.
The city is getting back to normal but even the nicer residential neighborhoods show signs of damage: tarped roofs, missing siding, boarded up windows etc. East Biloxi where we worked is still in near third world conditions, with most of the standing houses being either in some stage of repair with many mere shells with bare studs inside and when we started work on Sunday it had a ghost town quality. The amount of wreckage of both property and human kinds could induce paralysis in folks who want to help -- we worked on five or six houses during my stay out of the hundreds in need of repair. One was owned by a Vietnamese couple who had been victimized by a contractor (paid $16K for repairs that were never made); another belonged to an ageless black woman whose ten children are helping with the cost of materials to repair her small house that was built in the 1920's.
There were also four Habitat houses that were in the final stages of completion that we hoped to finish repairing during this month's visit, I worked on the one with the most to do and got it from 50-60% to about 80% while I was there (siding, exterior repairs, re-laying the front room floor, baseboards, reinstalled the bathroom vanity, sinks, and installed the bathroom door.) I never met the homeowner Ms Blondieva G (yes that's her real name -- who lives in a FEMA trailer in front of the house) but admit to working harder and longer after Peggie met with her to sign some paperwork and relayed that she (Blondieva) apologized for being very shy and not meeting the volunteers who worked on her house everyday but that she hurried home every night to see the progress of repairs and asked that Peg pass along her thanks to us for all the hard work.
There were about 20 volunteers who came from mostly Habitat folks from Virginia (No VA and Loudon affiliates), Oregon (a former HFHNV volunteer who moved brought three friends with her) and even a DC Habitat volunteer from Maryland. We were joined most days by 10-20 Airmen from Kessler AFB who had volunteered to help while they were waiting for their training courses to start. All were brand new to the military and had a tendency to snap to attention when spoken to and parade rest when listening. Good young men and women who were glad to get off base and give us a helping hand.
During the week I was glad to see several other relief organizations roll in to help; at first we were the only ones working but on Tuesday work was started on 5-6 other houses in the surrounding couple of blocks. As good as it felt to see the neighborhood spring back to life there is still so much to do. On one hand I felt good about what we accomplished, but left with the realization that we are merely scratching the surface and that once this month of building was done anything left to do would have to wait until the next trip in July. I probably won't make that trip but will go back and I hope to see lots of progress by then.
PS. Not fishing for donations but in the event you want more information or even join or donate to the relief effort for East Biloxi here are some links:
This link is Arlington's information site, their first concrete support was provided during my trip both equipment and volunteers
This is the city of Biloxi official website lots of photos of the city in various stages of recovery.
Recent NY Times article about Biloxi's rebuilding challenge