Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Pass Christian

While we were in Mississippi, we worked in Pass Christian (pronounced "Chris-chi-ann"). Pass Christian is a quiet, historical city along the Gulf of Mexico. The city is 6 miles long and 1 mile wide.

The following information was provided by Skip Barrett, who works for Square Foot Ministries. He lost his family home in Hurricane Katrina and spends 8-10 hours per day helping other people and dreaming of ways to get more volunteers into Pass Christian. He hopes to find a quicker way to get the citizens of Pass Christian back into homes and out of FEMA trailers.

Before Katrina, the city had a population of 6,900 residents. After the storm, only 2,500 residents remain.  Approximately 4,000 homes were destroyed, and 3,500 still need to be rebuilt. 

During the hurricane, the water reached depths of 30-37 feet, and 100% of downtown Pass Christian was destroyed, as well as the water and sewer systems, police and fire departments, city hall, the library, local businesses, and many of the churches. Eighty percent of the homes were destroyed, including many historical houses. Only 6% of the remaining houses were habitable. No rental housing was left, and there were no grocery stores for 6-12 miles. The loss of homes also meant no tax base for the city.
All residents of Pass Christian experienced loss and had to start over. In a town where everyone knew everyone else, the loss of history and culture was overwhelming. The residents felt like "POKs" or Prisoners of Katrina. Many elderly citizens died from the heartbreak of the situation. 

There are many roadblocks to rebuilding Pass Christian. First, insurance carriers only paid off the mortgages on homes, leaving little money to rebuild. New regulations require houses to be elevated, but there is a lack of qualified foundation builders. Many contractors are overcharging or robbing people by taking their money up front and leaving. In addition, the gas, water, and electric systems are incomplete. Finally, many trees are dying and debris still needs to be cleared.

At this point, the number of volunteers is down. Recovery is estimated to take 10-15 years. Grant money is not being released, and rules are changing daily. 

Many people are falling through the cracks and becoming depressed. They may not qualify for or understand government grants. Residents have experienced many false starts and promises. With debris still visible, weeds overtaking the city, and the slow rate of rebuilding, citizens are slow to return. Many who remain are living in FEMA trailers.

Above all, the citizens of Pass Christian need your prayers. They need volunteers who can help rebuild and bring hope and joy to the citizens. What can you do to help?

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