New Orleans Recovery Initiative (NORI)

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A Project of the UNC Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity. Administered by the Center on Urban and Regional Studies; with participation of the UNC School of Social Work, the Department of City and Regional Planning and the UNC School of Law; and with the support of the UNC Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Development.

In the fall of 2006, Walter Isaacson, Vice-Chair of the Louisiana Recovery Authority, came to Chapel Hill to participate in "Katrina Revisited," a Poverty Center event looking at New Orleans one year after the hurricane. Isaacson called for the university to commit its resources and energy to aid in the rebuilding effort.

In response, Oscar Barbarin, a professor in the School of Social Work, traveled to New Orleans later that fall to explore ways that UNC could help. When he returned, Dr. Barbarin joined forces with Dr. William Rohe (City and Regional Planning) and Dr. Spencer Cowan (Center on Urban and Regional Studies).

They selected District 6 as their area where they would focus their efforts. District 6 includes the greater Gentilly area in New Orleans and was a historically middle-class African American neighborhood, representative of the city's rich heritage.

In discussions with community leaders and city planners, NORI identified two projects in which the participants' expertise and the residents' needs overlapped. The first was the creation of a neighborhood information center that would provide returning residents access to the full range of information necessary to undertake the rebuilding of their houses and lives. The second project would provide the district's community associations with GIS maps of their neighborhoods. These maps would allow residents to plan future development in an informed way.

Students and faculty working with NORI returned often to New Orleans to meet with neighborhood associations, planning consultants, faculty at local universities, community leaders and others. Joanne Caye, a professor in the School of Social Work at UNC, led the information center effort. Working with community leaders, she and five students, helped to establish the Pontilly Recovery Center.

Workshops sponsored by the City and Regional Planning Department at UNC, gave students the chance to travel to New Orleans to meet community leaders, develop a survey instrument, collect data and create maps. Students made presentations to community associations and trained residents on how to update data (the department has agreed to make new maps to reflect changing circumstances). Students also recorded their impressions and gathered important legal, regulatory and contact information in two reports that were distributed to community associations.

More Information

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