Common Ground Relief
Common Ground Relief (CGR) was formed in the wake of Hurricane Katrina to provide immediate aid to residents in the Gulf Coast area and long-term support in rebuilding New Orleans communities in just and sustainable ways.
The hurricanes and flooding of 2005 devastated much of the Gulf Coast. Because of the historic lack of investment in public infrastructure, poor Black, Asian and Native American communities were the hardest hit by the devastation. In the days, weeks and months following Katrina, government and official relief organizations failed to meet the basic needs for shelter, food and health care in these communities. This failure exposed the long-standing injustices of racism, inadequate health care, education and housing, ill-designed levees, and police harassment and brutality.
Within days of the hurricane CGR began offering free medical care, food and water in Algiers. As people of conscience from every background and corner of the country and world began volunteering with CGR, the organization quickly expanded to provide emergency relief to a diverse array of disenfranchised communities in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. Throughout 2006 and 2007, CGR had a daily average of 150-300 volunteers on the ground. CGR has developed a network of over 18,000 one time and repeat volunteers and worked with more than 180,000 residents. In late 2007 as the need for immediate relief ebbed, CGR began to plan for its long term role in rebuilding. At that time it became clear that CGR could best sustain its efforts by working in one specific neighborhood in New Orleans.
Today, CGR operations are headquartered in Lower 9th Ward. We are focusing our rebuilding efforts in this community which was decimated by the Industrial Canal Levee Breach. Our vision of rebuilding sustainable communities continues to adapt to the ongoing changing situation in New Orleans and the Lower 9th Ward. We have a group of 25 long term volunteers and anywhere from 10 to 60 short term volunteers. CGR is working everyday to assist local residents through a broad range of project areas. We are still meeting immediate needs while initiating long-term strategies to address root causes of instability.
• The Anita Roddick Advocacy Center is home to the offices of CGR as well as the “Welcome Home Resource Desk.” Offering free computer access, long distance calling, faxing and copying to local residents.
• CGR Legal Collective researches current legal issues effecting New Orleans residents and displaced community members. The Legal Clinic provides free contract review, best practices brochures and legal referrals.
• CGR Media Collective provides grassroots media coverage of events and activities in the New Orleans area with the intent of informing residents and displaced community members as well as inspiring volunteers and supporters towards taking constructive social action.
• The Meg Perry Healthy Soil Project provides information on techniques for minimizing health risks associated with soil toxicity and reduced price bioremediation of contaminated residential and community garden sites. The Common Gardens initiative works to increase local food security by aiding in the development of community and backyard gardens.
• Common Wetlands seeks to educate local and wider communities of the importance of protecting and replanting coastal wetlands. This unique ecosystem provides a measure of safety for our lives and homes, and it is a crucial habitat for a multitude of species. We engender stewardship in the name of future generations.
• CGR Mowing provides low cost grass cutting for displaced property owners in the Lower 9th Ward to prevent fines and leans assessed by the City of New Orleans.
• CGR Construction provides free and low cost labor to returning home owners. While many organizations have ceased gutting homes we continue to gut houses all over the city. We also provide rebuilding assistance here the in Lower 9th Ward.
• Common Ground Job Training is a project currently under development. With our partner EPCO Construction we are developing a construction trade training program for local New Orleans residents. The goal of the program is to educate youth and mid-career community members, and women in particular in the construction and life skills needed to be enfranchised in rebuilding their neighborhoods and to be successful for a lifetime.