Housing Initiative Puts Alabama's Black Belt On Radar
     United Way spearheads efforts to build new homes for Katrina-damaged areas

Hurricane Ivan destroyed or severely damaged homes throughout Alabama's "Black
Belt" region, which includes some of the poorest counties in the United States. Hurri-
cane Katrina a year later further devastated the area, leaving many homeless and
looking for help.

Help for the Black Belt has been slow in coming and the housing situation has changed
little in the two and a half years since Katrina. The news media rarely mentions Ala-
bama in context of Hurricane Katrina reports.

The Black Belt Housing Initiative, the largest affordable housing initiative ever realized in Alabama, has
the potential to change the housing landscape in the Black Belt.

The initiative includes United Ways of Alabama, which coordinated and spearheaded the initiative, as
well as Habitat for Humanity, Rosebay Homes, and the Hale Empowerment and Revitalization
Organization (HERO) Housing Resource Center, which provides budget and financial planning, home
repair workshops, and basic home buyer education.

Becky Booker, of United Ways of Alabama said, "These counties lacked the infrastructure and capacity
to obtain the depth of external resource they needed to address their unique needs. We saw the
devastation and United Ways of Alabama made it a priority to help Ivan and Katrina victims by focusing
specifically on the lack of affordable, quality housing.”

The partnership has provided twenty large, high quality, wood-framed system-built new houses,
constructed by Rosebay Homes, spread across Choctaw, Greene, Hale, Sumter and Washington
counties. The houses feature smooth-finished ceilings, 42 inch custom wood kitchen cabinets, solid
surface counter tops, spacious bedrooms, and beautiful cultured marble in the bathrooms. Energy
efficient appliances are also included with the homes.

Four Greensboro families are moving into the new homes and twelve other families will also be moving
into homes in Sumter and Greene counties. It is unclear where the remaining four homes will be built.

"With the focus of the country on reconstruction of damaged areas in Louisiana and Mississippi, this
poor region of Alabama has been under everyone's radar screen until now," added Booker.  

Funding for the project came from the George Bush/Bill Clinton Katrina Fund, the Governor’s
Emergency Relief Fund, and Habitat for Humanity International, Operation Home Delivery.

To learn more or to donate, contact Becky Booker at United Ways of Alabama, 540 South Perry Street,
Montgomery, AL 36104, call 334.269.4505 or email: becky@doingwhatmatters.org.
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Alabama' Black Belt map (photo credit: Wikipedia)