Monday, February 05, 2007

Lower Ninth Ward: Over Half Way There

Over 50% of the Lower Ninth Ward is now color coded. How it happened was pretty unexpected.

Jeffrey Robinson and I start mapping with Patricia Jones, executive director of NANA (Lower 9th Neighborhood Network Empowerment Association), and two volunteers staying at Common Ground Relief named Rashida and Nick. Unfortunately, the census-block codes given to us for the street addresses aren't really census blocks. Our mapping assignments are consequently pretty cumbersome to use, and mapping is limited. I'm feeling disappointed.

When J.R. takes his scheduled flight home later in the day, I'm pulling back significantly on my expectations for the weekend. After talking it over with J.R, I knew I'd have to significantly rework the address lists we had. So why not wait until Spring Break in March? There would be plenty of visiting students around then. Why push it if we weren't ready yet.

I begin to anticipate a weekend where I might get to lounge around, catch up on projects with a less hurried pace, get more sleep, and perhaps enjoy the city's entertainment without the mapping responsibilities hanging over me for the next day. However, as J.R. would put it later, God had other plans for me this weekend.

I arrive at NANA at 10am (a half hour late) for what I think will be a casual meeting with John, one of the staff members. But in addition to John, three volunteers are waiting for me: Jo, Nicole, and Renee.

I suddenly find myself explaining the significance of mapping and reorganizing the address lists on the spot with Excel. Shortly after 11am, we hit the streets to try out a new mapping assignment system. We are joined by two volunteers from the 7th Ward - Ato and Kendall. Five minutes into the mapping, I am color coding the house of Fats Domino (the classic R&B and Rock & Roll musician who was falsely rumored dead after the flooding of the Lower Ninth Ward where he lived).

Jo goes out to look for lunch for the group, while I prepare additional assignments for 5-6 expected volunteers from Common Ground Relief.

The Lower Ninth Ward is composed of 7 census tracts, and we complete one by the end of the day. I get a brief nap in on Saturday night, but get only 2.5 hours of sleep. I'm up preparing new mapping assignments for a Sunday morning start. I try to finish all the mapping assignments for the Lower Ninth Ward, but discover that I'm missing addresses for the Holy Cross section of the distict. So I can prepare assignments for all but 2 census tracts.

I hope to get at least one census tract done. It all depends really on who shows up to volunteer. Sunday's haven't usually good days to map. Too many competing activities happening with residents, e.g., their (and/or my) attending religious services and football. And the Superbowl was today.

This morning we have 10 volunteers. Jo becomes a field coordinator, developing more detailed assignments for the afternoon and staying behind at today's base (a community-kitchen camp) to meet arriving volunteers and be a source of communication for walkers in the field.

Some volunteers can only map in the morning and leave. We gain a couple volunteers midday. Then a wave of 6 new volunteers arrive in the early afternoon. So today, we finish 3 census tracts rather than 1 that I was hoping for. Four of the seven tracts are done. Of the three remaining, Jo has prepared detailed assignments for the one remaining tract we have addresses for.

It's Sunday night, and I'm staying up late (again) so that I can prepare the address lists that we are missing from the Holy Cross area. This afternoon I brainstormed with James, a volunteer from Minnesota who just arrived in New Orleans yesterday while riding his bike around the country. I was talking about the lack of address lists for one area while James and I were mapping together. He had some ideas and convinced me that indeed I could generate the address lists we need overnight. However, I have a flight out on Monday morning...and won't be back until next weekend.

Fortunately, Jo has stepped up to help manage the mapping process in my absence. There are lots of issues to figure out, but she knows what to do. Particularly after her experiences today. I succeeded in preparing the address lists for the Holy Cross area tonight, so we are positioned to finish the Lower Ninth Ward.

We've already crossed 50%, and I'll be in town next weekend to help finish if I'm needed.


Blogger Sarah said...

Over half way done in the lower ninth! That is awesome. Thanks to everyone who is helping out including all of those Common Ground Volunteers. Thanks!

Great job despite the mapping address list woes. This problem seems to confront us at every turn. We faced it in Gentilly and now in the lower 9th as we move across the city it stands to be one of our biggest bottlenecks and prevents our face-paced progress.
There must be someone out there who knows how to solve the problem.

We need census track maps and address list at the street level for the entire city of New Orleans. I have faith that it can be done. Look at the progress made over the past few months!! If anyone can help contact the project and let us know!

Keep up the good work and I wish I could be out there pounding the pavement with y’all!

5:11 PM  

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