“Lowernine.org is a 501©(3) non-profit organization involved in the long-term recovery of New Orleans’ historic Lower Ninth Ward from Hurricane Katrina and the levee breaches of 2005″(“lowernine.org” 2012).“Rebuilding homes, restoring services, reviving hope, reaching out”(LowerNine.org, August 16th 2013, “lowernine.org”).

“The primary goal of lowernine.org is to rebuild as many homes as possible in the Lower Ninth Ward. As long as there are homes to be repaired and rebuilt, lowernine.org will be there to help in any way they can. Because of the lower cost method of rebuilding, explained in the methods section of the document, lowernine.org has made the vision of completely restoring the neighborhood of the Lower Ninth Ward a reality. The overall goal will not be met until all of the homes in the Lower Ninth Ward are safe, comfortable, and occupied by the families that lost them”(“lowernine.org”2012).

Background & History

In 2005, two of the most devastating hurricanes struck the Gulf Coast, leaving some towns completely devastated. One such community was the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans. This area was hit the hardest by the storms because of how close it is located to the levees. The magnitude of the physical destruction, however, is not the sole reason why the area was, and still is, taking the longest to recover. The Lower Ninth Ward is the slowest to rebuild in New Orleans because of the wide spread destruction, extreme poverty, and the lack of action and support from the government. This problem became evident to Rick Prose in February of 2007, about one and a half years after Katrina and Rita, when he was visiting from Maine (LowerNine.org, 2012, “lowernine.org”). Prose had an idea of providing basic carpentry work to unskilled volunteers, but he came to realize that a new home is only part of what the distraught, post-Katrina families need. The post-Katrina social community needs support and rebuilding as well.

Lowernine.org aims to not only rebuild houses, but to rebuild every aspect of the post-Katrina Lower Ninth Ward Communities. The organization teaches both residents and volunteers, from all over the globe, all levels of construction, gardening, community development, social outreach, and emotional and social support services. Because of the storms’ tremendous effect on every resident in the Lower Ninth, lowernine.org doesn’t focus on helping a specific demographic. The organization offers support to everyone, no matter their age, ability, religion, or economic status. Lowernine.org has grown from a small group of New England volunteers, to a well-organized and efficient organization (LowerNine.org, 2012, “lowernine.org”). Due to the small number of permanent lowernine.org employees, the organization works closely with the members of the communities in which they build and restore homes. The organization also collaborates with similar organizations and volunteers from around the world to provide the most support possible. The main mission of lowerine.org is to give communities a “fighting chance of surviving for another century,” something many people believe is impossible (Elizabeth Cole, 2012, “Greater New Orleans Foundation”).

In addition to training residents and volunteers to build and refinish homes, lowernine.org started a new project to better the life of the people living in the Lower Ninth Ward There were two obvious problems in the Lower Ninth that seemed necessary to resolve. First, the nearest supermarket is over three miles away. Second, there is empty, overgrown, and unused land in various places throughout the Lower Ninth Ward. In order to remedy these two issues, as well as promote sustainability in the area, lowernine.org created the garden project in the spring of 2008 (LowerNine.org,2012, “lowernine.org”). The project was relatively easy to begin. The owners of the empty lots were mostly elderly people unwilling to sell their land, but unable to pay for upkeep. The organization asked the property owners if they were willing to convert their land to the way it was not so long ago, before extreme commercialization and they all undoubtedly agreed. Using the land of willing residents, lowernine.org created raised gardening beds for the community to use as well as creating a small orchard. In November of 2008, the first official plot of land was used as a garden. It was the “Villere Farm”. And although the farm has changed locations, and names, the idea has not. In the summer of 2010, Lamanche Community Farm was created in the “backatown”(LowerNine.org,2012, “lowernine.org”). The crops harvested from the farm are sold to farmer’s markets and through CSAs; the profits all go back to benefit the community. Since 2012, responsibility for the farm has been taken over by Sheaux Fresh Sustainable Foods. It is owned and operated by the Prosper family, which is working to help New Orleans residents provide fresh food for their families (LowerNine.org,2012, “lowernine.org”).

Activities & Projects

To get involved with, or help out, lowernine.org, one can simply donate to a cause of their choice (garden project, social rejuvenation, home rebuilding, etc.). Also, the organization is always in need of new, energetic volunteers. Groups and individuals make the trek down to the great city of New Orleans and can be of assistance anywhere from a day to a year. Lowernine.org focuses volunteers on rebuilding, but if people have other skills, they are encouraged to share them with the community (LowerNine.org,2012, “lowernine.org”).

Cultural & Economic Impact

The nonprofit not only helps the individual citizens living in the Lower Ninth, but also the community as a whole by preserving the culture of the great neighborhood. When the hurricanes hit, more than just the structures were destroyed. People’s ways of life were erased. More crime and delinquency entered the Lower Ninth Ward than ever before. Lowernine.org is trying to restore the culture of the communities to where it was before Katrina. By building new homes and giving people opportunities, people will once again be proud to call the Lower Ninth home.

As well as the cultural impact lowerning.org has in the communities of the Lower Ninth Ward, it greatly impacts the economy as well. The average cost of renovating a house in New Orleans is $50 per square foot, which is affordable for a typical family with an average income of $57,000 per year. The typical American family, however, is extremely different from the typical family in the Lower Ninth, where the average yearly income is $27,500. Lowernine.org, however, was able to develop a cost efficient way of building houses in the Lower Ninth. The organization is able to rebuild a home for $10 per square foot, one fifth of the typical price (Elizabeth Cole, 2012, “Greater New Orleans Foundation”). They were able to adapt to the economic status of the community, and are still able to give them independence. According to city-data.com, the average price of a detached house in the Lower Ninth Ward is $162,194 (“Lower Ninth Ward neighborhood in New Orleans, La 70117 detailed profile” 2011). The Trumpet recently reported that the organization has successfully rebuilt 58 homes and has worked on smaller projects on over 100 properties (The Trumpet, March/April 2013, Issue 7 Volume 2.,“lowernine.org helps rebuilding homes”, page 14). Laura Paul reported that they have also used roughly 4 million dollars’ worth of volunteer labor (Paul, Laura. by Corrine Lane. November 12, 2012). Using this information, it can be concluded that since the opening in 2007, lowerine.org has contributed roughly 13.2 million dollars to the Lower Ninth Ward.

Mapping Non-Profit Influence: The Case of the Lower Ninth Ward

LowerNine.org is one of many organizations that have worked to restore the Lower Ninth Ward after Hurricane Katrina. As part of a larger study of the impact and networks of non-profits in 2013 (please see Mapping Non-Profit Influence: The Case of the Lower Ninth Ward for more details), we can see that this organization excels in the following areas:


1. Access to Consumers, regardless of ability to pay
Lowernine.org makes rebuilding much more accessible then either government or private firms for those with less means. Home owners are only subject to pay for building materials, while lowernine.org provides all of the free labor. They are also located directly in the neighborhood that they seek to access, making it easy for consumers to reach them. However, there are many applications for their services, making access slightly more difficult due to the overwhelming interest.

2. Provision of Collective Goods
lowernine.org provides collective goods in the sense that they spread information through various methods (analyzed below) and their services enhance the neighborhood’s urban landscape through rebuilding/reconstruction and beautification that everyone can enjoy.

3. Opportunities to Volunteer
Lowernine.org is very reliant on volunteers and thus provides many opportunities for them year round. They work with volunteer interns and also groups from around the country. As a local non-profit, volunteering is essential to their sustainability and mission to provide free labor.

Participation in Information Sharing

When we analyze lowernine.org, based on its extent of participation in information sharing activities, we see they are active in 3 ways.

1. Training
Training is lowernine.org’s strongest sharing technique. They train both residents and volunteers in home construction and rebuilding or repairs. Because they rely so heavily on volunteers to provide labor, they are very dedicated to training them in order to be effective.

2. Capacity Building
Lowernine.org works closely with community members, attending neighborhood association meetings and working with residents applying for their services. Their training provides a sense of self-confidence and pride. Capacity building is also generated through the new home itself. Putting families back into safe households is the first step in helping them achieve greater success.

3. Networking
Lowernine.org also participates in networking. They have direct connections with three other organizations in this study (common ground relief, capstone, CSED) and have good relationships with local community leaders. They also engage in networking through loaning tools, and giving or receiving volunteers, from other organizations.