Jim Seida  /  msnbc.com
Andre Dunn hopes to move his family into his house in New Orleans Seventh Ward by the end of September.
By Mike Brunker Projects Team editor
updated 8/29/2007 6:22:58 AM ET 2007-08-29T10:22:58

Andre Dunn swore he’d never go back to the city he called a “deathtrap” after he and his family fled Hurricane Katrina and established a new life in Georgia. But two years after the storm swamped New Orleans, he is back in the Crescent City, hammering nails and putting up sheet rock to repair his badly damaged and long-vacant home.

Dunn, 39, said the decision to return from Lawrenceville, Ga., to rebuild the family’s uninsured four-bedroom “shotgun-style” home in New Orleans was both financial and emotional.

For one thing, he wasn’t able to find work in Georgia.

“You’ve got to know somebody, and I didn’t,” he says. “And people from New Orleans have a bad rap there.”

For another, the city of New Orleans was threatening to foreclose on his property.

“The city was pressuring me, saying , ‘If you’re going to keep it, fix it up. If you’re not going to keep it, sell it,’” he says.

And  his wife, Trenell, and kids were missing family and friend still living in New Orleans.

Mark Adams  /  for MSNBC.com
'Everybody’s doing something to help each other out," Andre Dunn says of the rebuilding going on in his neighborhood. "We’re making progress, but it’s a slow process.”
So Dunn shelved the doubts he expressed nearly two years earlier, when he described the city as “a fish bowl … a deathtrap,” and moved back home in February.

“When I got back, my wife’s friend had a trailer that she moved into with the kids, and I lived in the house,” he said. “I made two rooms available right away where I could stay while I worked on it.”

Dunn, who had only mortgage insurance on the Urquhart Street and received no compensation from his insurer, obtained grant money available to hard-hit homeowners to pay for some of the work on the house and is doing the rest himself.

He also works as a newspaper delivery man and as a DJ whenever he can land a gig. He’s also expecting to take on a Meals on Wheels route delivering food to the elderly soon.

He said he hopes the rest of his family can move in before the end of September.

“Right now, I’m at the stage where we’re leveling the house off and getting ready to close it up, putting in the floor joists, paneling and the insulation,” he says.

Dunn says any uneasiness he had about returning to New Orleans vanished once he embraced the challenge of rebuilding his home and saw the neighborhood in the Seventh Ward  “coming back alive.”

“Three other people have  rebuilt … and others are doing things with their property,” he says. “I think it’s going to be better as it goes along. … Everybody’s doing something to help each other out. We’re making progress, but it’s a slow process.”

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