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.

History of Common Ground Relief

The Beginning

Common Ground was founded in Algiers on the West Bank of New Orleans on September 5, 2005 in the kitchen of Malik Rahim's boyhood home along with Scott Crow and Sharon Johnson and Sharon's $50 in cash.

Volunteers from around the world began to pour into the city to assist residents and provide mutual aid. Common Ground, without government funding, did the following:

  • Created 9 food/water, tool lending and clothing distribution centers in 7 of Louisiana's southern parishes from Houma to Belle Chasse
  • Established the Common Ground Health Clinic with seven mobile clinics
  • Established the Common Ground Free Legal Clinic
  • Established a women's and family shelter
  • Built neighborhood computer centers and offered free tech support to local non-profits
  • Established a media collective
  • Created 100 community garden projects city-wide
  • Gutted 3,000 houses, businesses, churches and schools in the Ninth Ward
  • Tarped wind damaged roofs
  • Provided bioremediation services for mold and soil toxin removal
  • Provided debris removal with Bobcat services and tree trimming
  • Provided anti-racist training for volunteers

The Common Ground Health Clinic is now a 501c3 non profit operating in Algiers. the shelters are now operating as the New Orleans Women's & Children's Shelter and the Common Ground Legal Clinic is now affiliated with The Louisiana Civil Justice Center.

Rebuilding and Job Training

In late 2007, as the world wide recession worsened and the rebuilding of houses commenced, Common Ground Relief partnered with a local general contractor to build affordable, energy efficient housing through the State of Louisiana's Road Home program. Common Ground ended the use of large numbers of volunteers in order to create employment and job training opportunities for residents displaced by hurricanes Katrina and Rita. A series of Section 3 Small Businesses were created to accomplish this goal. An elevated model house, with a stormwater filtration system using native plant material, was built at 1804 Deslonde Street in the Lower Ninth Ward. 1804 Deslonde Street now houses volunteers working on our wetlands restoration projects.

In late 2008 the Anita Roddick Advocacy Center was created to provide community services and house volunteers at 1800 Deslonde Street in the Lower Ninth Ward.

Wetlands Restoration

In March 2009 we created the Wetland Restoration Station. This project allowed us to begin growing trees and marsh grasses that we use for planting projects. In 2013 an Alternative Land Use Plan was created by the City of New Orleans and we begin to purchase land in the Lower Ninth Ward within walking distance of our offices. In 2014 we opened our second state licensed native tree and marsh grass nursery. This site contains a forested area of native trees, citrus trees, drought resistant roses along the fence line for cutting and butterfly gardens. A stormwater retention pond contains native grasses and irises.

Our Nursery 2.0, the "Cabane Coypu" and our wetlands contemplative center are open to the public. The nursery produces up to 8,000 trees per year and this is the site for our annual tree giveaway for local residents.

Looking to the Future

As Common Ground Relief moves forward our institutional priorities will be:

  • Native Tree and Marsh Grass Propagation and Planting
  • K-12 Wetlands Education in local schools and student engagement in coastal restoration efforts
  • Green Job Training and Green Job Placement for the formerly incarcerated
  • Assistance with green infrastructure for local Native American tribes and underrepresented communities
  • Support of free legal services for low wealth individuals