LAFITTE, La. — Three weeks after Hurricane Ida and one of the first things you notice in Lower Lafitte is that a lot of the mud has been removed from the roadways and many driveways. But now, there are other pressing needs.
“We have 400 people who were made homeless overnight and can’t live in their homes, so people are sleeping in their cars,” Lafitte mayor Tim Kerner explained. “So, getting temporary housing is the number one priority.”
There’s also been other progress, like the military bridge installation that replaced the ferry that was put in place after the storm damaged the Kerner bridge. A new permanent bridge is in the works but will take some time. At St Anthony’s Catholic Church, volunteers are doing the work of fulfilling the needs of the people.
“We get the hot meals first and a cold soda, and at the end, there’s cleaning supplies and recovery materials,” said Lower Lafitte resident Cindy Sissoni. “Across is water by the case, bags of ice, tetanus shots, COVID-19 shots, and vaccinations. Father Luke has arranged for a health unit across the street.”
St. Anthony is also gathering volunteers to help folks getting their houses gutted.
“We’ve compiled a list. We’re up to 80 people right now who are in need of gutting, mud removal, debris removal — anything that we can help them with,” Ellie Melancon with St. Anthony’s Church added.
On a very positive note, over 90% of the power has been restored in homes where it’s safe enough to do so. But that doesn’t erase what the people here understand about Ida’s wrath
“It was bad enough that we knew our neighbors were destroyed,” Sissoni explained. “But then we knew our town was destroyed, and our church, and our stores and our schools and it’s a whole ‘nother heartbreak
Help has come from across the country at St. Anthony’s, but Father Luke Nguyen says that even though the sanctuary is damaged, the church lives on through the people.
“The church is a community of people,” said Nguyen. “Wherever the people are, here God dwells among us.”
Another need that St. Anthony has is for supplies — specifically, men’s supplies. There are a lot of men working in Lafitte right now. As for the housing situation, mayor Kerner says it took Lake Charles about 9 months to get temporary housing and they’re trying to speed that up dramatically, even if it means purchasing housing and then being reimbursed by FEMA. It’s a plan they’re working on.
If you would like to donate supplies or volunteer at St. Anthony, contact Ellie Melancon at 504-782-3143