Common Ground Relief Building In The 9th Ward New Orleans

Common Ground Relief's mission is to create resilient Gulf Coast Communities that are environmentally sustainable, financially viable and personally cohesive. We fulfill this mission by helping residents build assets that support community transformation and renewal.

In 1985, a New Orleans Ninth Ward resident by the name of Calvin Duncan was wrongly accused of murder and sentenced to life without parole, probation or suspension of sentence. He was imprisoned for over 28 years in the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola for a crime he did not commit.

Working with limited resources and a 9th grade education, Mr. Duncan devoted himself to seeing information about and support for his case. In addition, Mr. Duncan earned his G.E.D and worked as an inmate counsel substitute helping inmates who had been sentenced to death on Louisiana's Death Row. Mr. Duncan worked on hundreds of cases and was successful in winning the freedom for some of his fellow prisoners, including Wilbert Rideau.

Despite his hard work, Mr. Duncan's efforts to exonerate himself were to no avail. That was until 2003 , when the Innocence Project New Orleans accepted his case and discovered documents that showed that the case against him was unfounded. On January 7, 2011, after serving nearly three decades in prison, Mr. Duncan accepted a plea offer and was released that day. Since his release Mr. Duncan has worked as a paralegal at the Louisiana Capital Appeals Project and is the Education Coordinator for the Louisiana For Alternative to the Death Penalty Speakers' Bureau department. He is also a volunteer coordinator for two programs at Tulane University, ALLIES and PAPERS for PRISONERS and is currently pursuing a degree in paralegal at Tulane University.

So, you have read this far and are wondering to yourself "Why are they telling me all this?".

In 2012 a friend donated to Mr. Duncan a beautiful century old wood frame house that can provide Mr. Duncan with a wonderful home and a sense of security. In addition, the house has enough space to include a small living area for recently released prisoners for who Mr. Duncan plans to mentor. However, this house is in a state of serious disrepair after having been vacant for many years and after having been flooded during Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Mr. Duncan does not have the funds to renovate it.

Common Ground Relief (CGR), a 501c3 non-profit organization located in the Ninth Ward, has agreed to help Mr. Duncan restore his home just as the Innocence Project helped restore his freedom. Founded in September 2005, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, CGR has fought for residents’ right to return, built/restored over 200 homes, provided job training and legal services to residents. With the help of our contractor partner and CGR's construction job trainees, we can restore this house at a very reasonable cost thus providing Mr. Duncan with an energy efficient home while renovating an architecturally significant house that will help reduce blight in the neighborhood and create jobs for local residents.

To help Mr. Duncan realize his dream of home ownership and to help mentor the formerly incarcerated, we need your help to raise funds for the project. We ask you to consider a donation to help us secure funds for permits, purchase building materials, pay skilled construction workers and offset any construction management costs. Any amount of money helps. All donations are tax deductible and will go directly at the restoration of Mr. Duncan's home.

If you would like to learn more about this project you can visit We have also enclosed a copy of our organization’s brochure.

Please feel free to send this website link on to other parties who might be interested in supporting this effort. If you would like to discuss this project or our request please contact us at either 504.312.1731 (please leave a voice mail message as there is a transcription service for this line) or email us at

On behalf of Common Ground Relief we want to thank you for what you do to make this a more just and fair world.