A Gentilly husband and wife finally move into their home after Katrina

A Gentilly husband and wife finally move into their home after Katrina
Updated: Aug. 22, 2018 at 4:56 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Cynthia and Charles Heisser's block was a mess after Katrina. Their home flooded and mold everywhere behind downed trees.

"You sitting at the level of the lake right now about five feet," Charles Heisser said. "That's how much water we had. It stayed there for about two or three weeks."

It took the couple, in their 80's, nine months just to see it. Unbelievably it would be 13 years before they could even consider moving into it again.

They were going to have the house demolished, but crews said the FEMA trailer was in the way. FEMA required them to stay on the property in order to be eligible for Road Home. They lived in a FEMA trailer for almost three years.

"One time a female knocked on the trailer door saying somebody stabbed her. We'd jump on the floor when shooting came," they said.

A flooded garage in the back of the house was the only other option.

"We started remolding the little house first so we could have a place to stay," Mrs. Heisser said. "We started buying things and just sitting them there hoping someone would help us with the big house."

One of their granddaughters discovered a non profit called Rebuilding Together that helps veterans and the elderly. Because Heisser is a veteran, Home Depot picked up the tab.

Will Stoudt is director of Rebuilding Together New Orleans.

"When we learned they'd been living in a shed 12 by 20 feet, one room, a kitchen and a bed, it's something you wouldn't want your grandparents living in. We decided we needed to help."

They started renovations in January and Cynthia Heisser calls the results unbelievable.

Stoudt says the house was already gutted and they had a six month timeline to do it as cheaply but with as much quality as possible. The project was about $60,000.

For the first time there was relief in sight for the Heissers, but they told Rebuilding together they weren't the only ones suffering. Their neighbor across the street had lived for 13 years with no electricity.

Henry Martin used a propane heater and battery powered lights all those years.

The Vietnam vet and artist slept on a couch with a flashlight and a bible.

Home Depot repaired his house too.

"Before Rebuilding Together New Orleans did all this, you would have said my goodness how did he survive here?" Martin said.

Stoudt said there were leaks and termites in the home. The conditions were awful.

Martin made a living in the French Quarter before the storm. Since Katrina he's had no transportation to sell his art there. Now life is much more beautiful for him and his neighbors.

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