Goodens open Garyville home to displaced

Published 12:00 am Monday, September 26, 2005



LAPLACE — Jimmie and Nashonda Gooden of Garyville know how fortunate they are.

Not only has the couple done well with their business of Gooden Homes in St. John Parish, but the large home they live in had virtually no damage from Hurricane Katrina.

So there was not a second of thought from the local couple when they heard from Jimmie’s brother that family members and friends needed help.

“We got a call from Baton Rouge the week after the storm that he had 16 people living in his house,” Jimmie said. “So we knew we had to help.”

The result was that the Goodens opened their house to what began as nine visitors, now living wherever they can find a bed, with a future that is very uncertain after the three families lost all their homes in the Ninth Ward of New Orleans.

“I felt sorry for them,”

Jimmie said. “I heard some of them were sleeping in cars, so we knew we had to help.”

The Goodens are an example of what has happened to thousands of homes in Louisiana following Hurricane Katrina. Their situation is hardly rare, as many people lost their homes in the New Orleans area, and are now forced to live elsewhere.

“I try to remind myself that if I was in their shoes, I would hope to be treated the same way,” Jimmie added. “And I know I have been fortunate in my business and didn’t have my house damaged, so we have to be here to help.”

Adding to the Goodens home, which has Jimmie, Nashonda and 1-year-old Jhase, is quite a list of family and friends.

Jimmie’s sister is there with her husband and 11-year-old girl; Jimmie’s sister’s husbands mother and father are there; and you can add a 16-year-old boy, an 8-year-old girl, and another 39-year-old woman.

All those now staying at the Goodens home are trying to figure out what is next for them. Their homes were severely flooded in the Ninth Ward, probably beyond repair. While they have the means to buy a new home, the difficulty is in even finding any homes to buy.

“We all went out this week and have looked from Baton Rouge to anywhere in between,” said 71-year-old Beatrice Hall. “We were looking for a rental, and then something just to buy, but there is almost nothing out there.”

And that appears to be the problem for so many others in Louisiana following the devastating storm. Thousands of people had to evacuate, and now cannot go back to their homes. Many of them have no homes to go to. And with the rush to find housing throughout the state, little housing is available anywhere.

“The hardest thing for us, and certainly for Jimmie and Nashonda, is that we are here indefinitely,” 39-year-old Babette Desdunes said. “We know this is a lot for them to take on, and they have been so patient and welcoming to us. We try to be as considerate as we can when they come home at night, but we know this is hard for them.”

Hall, who owns rental property in New Orleans with her husband Morris, shows the wisdom of age in understanding the difficulty all around in the situation.

“We know we’re not alone. So many others are just like this situation we have here,” she said. “But I don’t like inconveniencing people as we all have to do now. That may be the hardest thing about it. I just want us all to get out as soon as we can for Jimmie and Nashonda. We have been overwhelmed by the kindness they have shown us.”

Not only did the three families lose all of their homes, but also they lost their vehicles and jobs for the present time. The house, while large with four bedrooms, a game room serving as a bedroom, and five baths, also had to get a hospital bed for Morris Hall, who recently had a stroke and is in a wheelchair.

“It’s tough on everyone, but they have all tried to help as much as possible. They have cooked supper, done their laundry during the day and we all just try to stay out of everyone’s way the best we can,” Nashonda said. “And I guess this is the benefit for us of having a big house. But there was no way we could let them sleep in a car.

“The hardest thing for me is the way it has affected my baby. He’s not eating right and acting up more, but that’s understandable since there is so much going on here,” she added.

So for now, the visitors head out each day looking for some new place to move, something that will not happen too quickly.

“Everyone has their own way, and when we all have to live together, it’s hard for everyone,” Beatrice Hall remarked. “But after a while, you know it’s time to go, so we’re looking the best we can to find new homes.”