In August 2005, Lauri Pierson Weinfeld ’78 had lost her longterm renters for her property an hour outside of Cleveland. Ironically, that was the same week that Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans. With the thousands of people who suddenly found themselves homeless as New Orleans began to rebuild, Weinfeld had a place just sitting there, empty. Giving it up to someone in need was a no-brainer. “I thought, This is something I can do.”
After word got around through neighbors and her church, Weinfeld learned of a husband, wife, and their two kids who had traveled from St. Bernard Parish to live in the basement of a family member’s home in Canton, Ohio. Their house had been destroyed. Everything they owned, save the suitcases they traveled with, had been lost. So Weinfeld handed them the keys to her three-bedroom rental property and allowed them to stay for six months, rent-free, as they secured housing back in New Orleans.
In addition, the local community held a charitable drop-off day, and cars lined the block, bringing the St. Bernard family lots of furniture, food, linens, and towels to use during their stay in Ohio and then to pack up and take with them to fill their new home down south. “It was a great outpouring of generosity,” says Weinfeld.
When the family headed back to New Orleans, Weinfeld was sad to see them go, but “that’s where their hearts were,” she says, “and they needed to go back home.” Weinfeld immediately began looking for a regular tenant and rented the property successfully for the next seven years.
But today, Weinfeld finds herself in exactly the same position she was in back in 2005. Within a day of Hurricane Sandy making landfall in New Jersey, her current tenants found a new property, leaving her with another empty house to be offered up for charity.
With 40,000 people in need of a place to live as a result of Sandy’s destruction, Weinfeld thought it would be easy to find a family that could use a free place to stay for up to four months, but she can’t seem to find any takers. She’s reached out to organizations, chat boards, and now TheDEN. So if you know a victim of Hurricane Sandy who could use a roof over her head, send Weinfeld a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.