It was mid-April and I was driving down their street, out with the camera "getting lost".
I cherish the days I get to do this. For this is how I am 'guided'. My mind loses control over the situation except for the steering/driving of the car. An energy seems to come into my consciousness that blocks out all other thoughts, directing my focus. I find myself "getting lost" not making the usual conscious decisions you make whilst driving. like when to turn and where to turn. I have the "mental" experience of perceiving myself as "lost". What usually happens when this occurs, is that I find myself being led to where exactly I need to be.
A week or so later, I was driving down their street again, (this street has now become an intimate part of my life as both the G's and Mrs. G live on it). I saw a man sitting on one of the many chairs on the porch.
I said from my car window, "I took a picture of your house, of that sign you have hanging by the door and put it up on the Internet." He smiled and came down to the window of my car and we talked. I asked him, "Would you like a copy of the picture?" He told me he would, we talked for a little longer and then I drove on.
For a few weeks I was caught up in a lot of drama's, as I still learning how to have good "helping boundaries", and trying to sleep in an apartment that was never quiet. Needless to say, I did not get a print of his picture made, and the next time I saw him he asked me "Do you have that picture of the house for me?" Shamed faced at falling short on my promise, I told him I did not. I promised him that I would leave the print for him in a few days in an envelope, in his mailbox.
The next time I saw the Mr. and Mrs. G I was with a journalist and I asked Mr. G if he would like to be interviewed by this journalist. "What good is it goin to do for me? (There was that question again!) I told him, "who knows, probably nothing at all, but maybe something could come of it, I sure couldn't make any promises though".
Mr. G had never invited me inside of his home. I usually drive up to the front of their house, honk a tune on my horn and wait for him to come to the door. Mrs. G usually stays in the FEMA travel trailer and Mr. G in the gutted out remains of the house by day.
The electrical extension cord and the hose that run the washer.
The journalist also told me of the shrine to Martin Luther King (his picture and a candle). I was profoundly inspired by this revelation and knew that I wanted to help the G's, but did not know how to do so. In April, I had put out prayers for them in "Prayers for the Suffering", yet I had not received any guidance as of that time.
One day I was dropping off Miss Beatrix at Covenant House for her medical appointments. When I went in with her to the lobby, I saw Miss Elizabeth. I sat and talked with Miss Elizabeth whilst Miss Beatrix went to her appointment. Whilst we were talking, a young woman with incredible exuberance came out and said hello to Miss Elizabeth, who then introduced me to Caty, the social worker at Covenant House.
It turns out, that Caty was the first part of my "prayers" answer.
Caty asked me what I was doing in New Orleans and I told her I was photographing and documenting the suffering occurring in New Orleans post Katrina 2 years later and keeping a blog. I told her that in my wanderings, I frequently met people who needed help, and they would share their suffering with me. As a result, I told her that I had become a "free lance" volunteer of sorts. She wanted to know more and took me back to her office, (a corner in the hallway with a bi-fold screen for privacy) and began sharing with her the situations of the people I had met and the next thing you know, Caty was looking up phone numbers for me. making copies of documents they might need, and then putting it all together in a manila folder.
She also agreed to go visit with Mr. and Mrs. G on the Friday coming up to see how she could help them. And help them she has! Through her help, the Green's were able to apply for the Road Home (Caty helped them do all the paperwork). She is helping them get the proper size trailer for 2 people (1 of which is handicapped) to live in a FEMA Handicapped Trailer. They have been living in a FEMA travel trailer. She has helped them apply for food stamps (which they need the food and the help applying as there are 16 pages of paperworkto be filled out). She has gotten help for them with their electric, water and sewage, and is helping them (with money out of her own pocket!), to get their Homestead Tax Exemption notarized. She has also help them make contact with the Council on Aging.
(Note: In order to get your Homestead Tax Exemption, you need to be living in your house and you must 'prove' it. You must have a notary notarize this proof. Caty is paying for the notary to drive to the G's and have him notarize the letter). Not an ordinary thing to do. And she doesn't know that I have told you all of her kind deed...)
Thanks to Caty, the G's are feeling more hopeful.
Last Saturday I visited with the G's. Actually, it was my day to drive around and visit all of the people who I have become close with in the upper and Lower 9th Ward and Desire. Mr. G and I spent some time talking about the past and New Orleans. I have his permission to share some of these stories with you, which I will do in the future. I asked him if I could write about he and Mrs. G's story and take photographs of the house for my blog. He asked me that question again, "How is that goin to help me?" Not knowing at the time the significance of the question and the story behind it, I told him, "I don't know Mr. G, maybe nothing at all, but I can put it up on my blog and at least people will read about what you are going through." He told me, "well okay, you have helped us out a lot already and you brought Katy to us, but I got my son coming and you can't take pictures of the house today." "Okay," I told him, "I'll come by next week to visit with you and I will take some pictures."
It was on this day, Mr. and Mrs. G shared with me the suffering they were enduring in the FEMA "travel trailer".
(Note: Mr and Mrs. G have given me their full permission to share everything I have written as well as the photo's even though neither of them have read my work.)