New Orleans Fellowship

History

In 2008, the Grinnell Corps expanded its opportunities for alumni into a new domestic program in New Orleans. One member of the class of 2014 will be selected as the seventh Grinnell Corps: New Orleans fellow, and will work with the Jericho Road Episcopal Housing Initiative, a program founded in part by Episcopal Relief and Development. Working in the Central City neighborhood of New Orleans, Jericho Road transforms under-used land, provides affordable housing opportunities, and collaborates with community members to empower families and individuals in one of America’s most culturally important cities.

Context

New Orleans is a city of neighborhoods, each with its own distinct history and character. Central City, located just outside of downtown, once contained a prominent merchant’s boulevard, fostered the careers of great jazz legends, and was a staging ground for the rise of civil rights movement in the 1960s. However, over the past few decades the neighborhood has experienced a deep decline. Although mainly spared from the worst flooding during Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Central City experienced a high level of blight both before and after the storm. The crime rate is high and the income levels low. 85% of the  residents are renters, often in substandard housing. Yet, many Central City residents have a strong conviction to change the current dynamic of their neighborhood. This strong social fabric combined with the historical character and prime location of Central City provides excellent building blocks for successful urban revitalization. Jericho Road, plus numerous other Central City organizations, actively participates in this movement. Although constantly adapting to the needs of the community, Jericho  Road’s two main activities consist of home construction and community organizing. The Grinnell Corps Fellow will be asked to decide which area will be the predominant focus of his or her work.

Jericho Road

On the housing side, Jericho Road transforms under-used land through both new construction and rehabilitation to provide affordable home purchasing opportunities. Further, they are dedicated to pursuing innovations in their design, not only adopting the traditional pre-existing neighborhood architecture but also green building techniques and the central tenants of Universal Design - allowing people with a broad range of physical abilities to live and thrive in their homes.  In the past three years Jericho Road has acquired nearly 60 properties and sold 20 affordable houses. Jericho Road’s community organizing provides an essential complement to the housing program. Partnerships with neighborhood residents, organizations and businesses help to create and maintain a stable and thriving community for new homeowners and residents in general. From special holiday events to community dinners, Jericho Road neighborhood coordinating efforts connects neighbors and empowers residents to improve their community. In addition to these two areas of work, Jericho Road is cleaning up a brownfield (contaminated land), the size of a full city block, in Central City. The Saratoga site has a total pre-clean up, clean up and development budget in excess of $1.8 million.  The pace for progress of the redevelopment of New Orleans is much like taking two steps forward and then one step back.  Promise for a better New Orleans is apparent.  This work will take time.  The world in which Jericho Road operates is ever changing and their success so far has been based on their ability to quickly react. Although their goals stay the same, the strategies to achieve these goals can be in a constant state of revision. A Fellow will be an active member of the organization and will not simply be an observer.

Duties and Responsibilities

Responsibilities will be great. Jericho Road is a lean and very productive organization where much is expected. New Orleans currently offers unparalleled opportunities to be part of real world solutions. Assigned tasks will have immediate and concrete deliverables which will be implemented within the community they are striving to serve. In the spring preceding a new fellow’s arrival, the current fellow and Jericho Road staff will work to outline potential projects of the incoming fellow (see below) which are in-line with his or her articulated interests and satisfy the needs of Jericho Road.   

Potential Projects

Community Organizing, Green Building, Universal Design, Brownfield Redevelopment, Property Acquisition, Blighted Property Campaign, Vacant Land Program, Mapping and Surveying Neighborhood Revitalization, Narrative Writing, Multi Media Presentation Production, Grant Writing, Client Support, and Event Planning

Probable Tasks

In addition to an independent project, the Fellow will be asked to help out with the daily and ongoing needs of one of three areas: 

Neighborhood Coordinator Assistance

  • Working with residents to coordinate meetings, programs and events
  • Supporting the desires of residents to act as agents of change in their neighborhood
  • Collecting data on the impacts and effectiveness of the community organizing program

Housing Program Assistance

  • Managing and organizing documents related to the development and transfer of property
  • Aiding the project management with regard to single family home construction
  • Answering inquiries of the Jericho Road housing program

Green Space Assistance (Grinnell Corps: New Orleans Green Space Coordinator job description)

  • Caring for and maintaining an orchard, including connecting local residents with the orchard through outreach and events
  • Maintaining and expanding a community garden program, working closely with local residents
  • Stabilizing and caring for local vacant lots

Needed Skills

A passion for social justice coupled with a solid generalist liberal arts background will be the best fit. Reading, writing, communicating and problem solving will be the central focus of the Fellow's work. Although there is no litmus test of any kind in regards to faith, the fellow should recognize that New Orleans’ culture is faith-filled, and that Jericho Road is a religiously-sponsored organization.   In addition, the fellow will need to feel comfortable working in a low wealth neighborhood  that faces the sadly typical American urban challenges of crime and blight.

Logistical Support

Fellow will be provided with use of a lap top, a desk and all office supplies etc.  Supervision will be provided by Executive Director of Jericho Road. Working environment is classic small non-profit with all tasks performed by all folks. Supervision will be supportive and equal to the needs of both the Fellow and the task at hand. Jericho Road is excited to treat the Fellow both as a productive worker and as a student of the unique world of New Orleans. Working toward a portable project that the Fellow can call their own and perhaps package into a graduate school application is encouraged. 

 

Fellows' Reports