In 2021, Hurricane Ida hit New Orleans and knocked out power across the city.
In some neighborhoods, electricity was not restored for more than a week. During the wait, people struggled to find food, stay out of the heat, and keep in touch.
A coalition of congregations and community groups wants to prevent a similar crisis from happening again.
So the coalition, called Together New Orleans, is installing solar panels and battery backup systems at community and faith centers across New Orleans. They are calling these centers “lighthouses.”
“The overall concept is that within 15 minutes walk from your house, you’ll find a lighthouse that you can go that will provide support,” says Jeffrey Cantin of Solar Alternatives, the company that’s installing the energy systems.
The solar and backup power will allow the faith and community centers to provide food, medical supplies, and a way to charge phones during blackouts.
So far, the coalition has powered up two churches and plans to build at least 85 of these community lighthouses across New Orleans.
“The idea that there’s a place for people to go in a city that’s otherwise in, perhaps, panic mode or in distress, it is a really powerful thing,” Cantin says.
Reporting credit: Ethan Freedman/ChavoBart Digital Media